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A few reviews . . (film or TV) — Page 29


Nobody - 1999 - 6/10
AKA - だれも

Decent video thriller of three fashionably dressed office men who casually insult another trio.
The other three, while less clothes conscious, are more comfortable with violence.
Events swiftly get ugly.
Low budget is disguised using night settings and rainy environment.
Then there is the female model, a fetching siren who “loses” accessories.
Not a bad flick, though a few reveals are preposterous.


Certified Copy - 2010 - 7/10
AKA - Copie Conforme

Confusing, talky French movie set in Tuscany.
A couple meet at a book lecture, then go on a small road trip.
Inside a coffee shop, all points of reference shift.
Dense film, packed with mysteries and revelations.
Questions whether a copy is equal to an original, or superior, are debated.
Deliberately composed to be misleading - for example - does the couple know each other?
Is a sham relationship better than a failing one?
In French, English and Italian.
Juliette Binoche stars. Gorgeous scenery. Definite arthouse fare.


Demon Eye - 2019 - 4/10

Way out on the moor wastelands, Dad, troubled by “something,” kills himself.
Next beat, his long estranged daughter flies in from the States to find out what happened.
Backstory pertains to a village girl from 1850’s who fashioned a tin amulet and prophesied doom and gloom for sinning, wayward locals.
Right quick she is burnt (well, no one likes debbie downer) and the village begins to wither.
So, will that Yank lass find that long lost demon amulet?
Fine outdoor scenery undercut by damn near everything else.
An OK premise, but producers seem so obsessed with avoiding clichés that they pile on inventive, ridiculous alternatives.
For example, throughout, a crying baby doll wails and is supposedly scary. To whom? Audience males who’ve just found out they got their girlfriend’s sister pregnant?
Most of the characters resemble street bums – there is a dog, we never see – John & Sadie?
Stupid film, that could have been better had fools not been in charge.
Almost, but not quite, a “bad cinema” pleasure, though connoisseurs will want to seek this out.
There is a birthing sequence that had me laughing out loud.


The Black Widow - 1947 - 6/10

A fun serial from Republic, and a slyly subversive one.
Usual nonsense about an evil potentate scheming to rule the world …
The “smartest guy” was not the manly hero.
No, it was Sombra, the Black Widow (played by the deliciously slinky Carol Forman), daughter of the poobah.
She leads her henchmen, devises strategies, overcomes police and Feds.

Bit by bit, she steals rocket parts and eludes capture.
The police put in charge a writer! Ha ha, that’s right, a writer of detective stories.
I guess producers did not want to stoop all the way down to using an English major.
He is assigned a female reporter. Typical of the period, he constantly condescends and belittles her.
Episode after episode, he gets trapped or overpowered, and she’s the one who comes to his rescue.
Viewed over several weeks, amusing enough.


Alraune - 1928 - 6/10
AKA - A Daughter Of Destiny

Silent version of Hanns Heinz Ewers’ mandrake tale stars Brigitte Helm.
The daughter of a prostitute and an executed criminal, she is the ward of an obsessive professor.
Around her is a litter of longing males, who leave her curiously uninterested.
Flawed film suffers broad over-acting and choppy narrative, perhaps from censored footage.
The movie swirls with nervous energy throughout, and will appeal to Weimar cinema buffs.
Musical score is classical medleys (predominately Mussorgsky and Debussy) with jazz combo tossed into nightclub scenes.

There are two earlier versions.
A 1919 one, directed by Curtiz, considered lost, and an extant 1918 which I have been unable to track down.
There are also two later versions.

Alraune - 1930 - 6/10

Sound version of the 1928. Brigitte Helm reprises the lead, with new director and cast.
The “mandrake myth” is most pronounced in this, as are the scientific dabbler’s motivations and collaborators.
In this, the princess, desiring an heir, is the trial run.
Alraune, however, is the breakthrough, an artificial experiment brought to adult fruition.
Helm not only plays Alraune, but also Alma, the prostitute incubator.
During her turn singing a cabaret number, one can easily understand why she was Von Sternberg’s original choice for Lola Lola in Der Blaue Angel.
Typical of an early talkie, static camerawork seems rudimentary, the pace is dreary.
Both prints I viewed were nth generation soft, and overlaid with hard Danish subs.
Sound leaves much to be desired, but is passable.

Alraune - 1952 - 6/10
AKA - Mandragore

The luminous Hildegard Knef stars as the bewitching siren.
She is at times childlike, other times maliciously cruel.
Heavy mortality among male admirers, nonetheless.
Camerawork is high Gothic, and the costumes and interiors evoke Douglas Sirk.
As with other versions, the mandrake root is referenced, but the fable, the magic, is underplayed.
Instead, the subcurrent is of eugenics, which would have been an unsettling taboo in post World War II.
The Klimt inspired set design is a highlight.


Cave Of Forgotten Dreams - 2011 - 7/10

Outstanding Werner Herzog documentary filmed inside the Chauvet caves of southern France.
Cave interiors have the oldest paintings known to exist, 30,000 years old.
The cliff face fell tens of thousands of years ago, sealing the original entrance, and protecting the art from us, the rabble.
Access was sealed immediately by French authorities after its discovery in 1994, so Herzog’s film will likely be the only view any of us ever see.
Wanted to dock this a point for intrusive music.


Misbehaviour - 2020 - 6/10

Docu-drama of the 1970 Miss World competition, disrupted by a budding feminist movement.
Focus is on three individuals: Bob Hope, blindsided at how much the world has changed. Eric Morley, contest promoter, trying to navigate a new reality, longing for the 1950’s. Sally Alexander, reluctant voice of the movement.
Non period music. Fashions seem unspecific. The film doesn’t “feel” right.
For a film launching the Women’s Liberation Movement, producers play it safe and opt for feel good.


Fighting With My Family - 2019 - 6/10

Still miss Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey)? She’s here, as is Florence Pugh and Nick Frost.
So is Vince Vaughn and Dwayne Johnson (AKA - The Rock).
Last detail is a heads up. This is a biopic of female wrestler, “Paige.”
Tight knit, wrestling obsessed, family promotes matches in villages and small venues.
If only they could catch a break, say, from a WWE scout, then they could roar in arenas.
Dreams come true, somewhat, in this follow by numbers, feel good flick.
Acting is fine, the story is corny.
Wrestling enthusiasts might applaud, maybe. They may not appreciate the arena as scripted.


Kaydara - 2011 - 5/10

An independently filmed chapter of the Matrix oeuvre.
Six minutes of clay-mation followed by fifty minutes of live action / CGI.
Some impressive special effects for a film made for $5.00, but slender in the way of narration.
Battles and fights, but thankfully, no Zion nonsense.
Still up on YouTube in 720p.


Late August, Early September - 1998 - 7/10
AKA - Fin Août, Début Septembre

French drama follows a group of friends as they, more or less, relate to each other and to the ailing writer in the center of their midst.
Gabriel breaks up with Jenny who, nevertheless, wants him back even though he is in a relationship with Anne.
These are creative types - artists, writers, designers, publishers - who form an unrelated family.
Most seem constantly broke, yet dine out frequently and wear nice clothes.
Characters are supposedly young adults maturing, but many are too old to be believable.
Very talky, and little seems to get accomplished all around, though fans of French cinema are used to this.
Whether you enjoy might depend on personal taste and if you can relate.
I actually belong to one of those “unrelated families” so this was easy for me to identify with.
Note the release date: The whole publishing angle - actual books and readers - strikes me as long, long ago now.


The Second Mother - 2015 - 6/10
AKA - Que Horas Ela Volta?

Val works for affluent family as nanny, housemaid, cook, laundress, do-it-all.
She has a roof over her head, is paid, is a member of the family - more or less - and exploited.
The estranged daughter Val had to abandon years earlier, to send money back to, invites herself to stay for a period.
The girl, studying for college entrance exams, is an unsettling, confident force.
Film delves into several conflicts: generational, class, merit.
Hardly a subtle film, viewers may feel their sympathies frayed by every character.


Project Nim - 2011 - 7/10

In the early 70’s, chimp infant Nim was taken from his chimpanzee family and given to a human family.
The concept, backed by Columbia University, was to see if chimpanzees could learn sign language skills.
Absorbing documentary from start to finish.
The family was the wrong choice as they let Nim grow up undisciplined and he developed anti social habits.
Like biting a face off.
Humans drifted in and out of Nim’s life, some honestly cared for him, others were disease experimenters.
Says a lot about animal medical testing, and human tendencies to anthropomorphize pets. Dog owners, take note.
Encouraging film for primates everywhere.


The Hourglass Sanatorium - 1973 - 7/10
AKA - Sanatorium Pod Klepsydra
AKA - The Sandglass

Difficult, at times baffling, journey into memory.
Józef arrives at the sanatorium where his father is dying – check that – has died.
The director says death has been suspended, as they manipulate time.
Father is dead, yet he is not dead (he exists in Józef’s memory).
The labyrinthian institute seems the de facto maze of recollection.
His childhood in the boisterous shtetl mixes with historical personages and incidents.
Waxwork mannikins suggest, but do not illuminate.
Logic and linearity are submerged, memory is deceptive and cluttered.
Much of this eluded me. I know little of Polish history, nor have I read many stories by Bruno Schultz, on which this is based.
While I was often lost, the visuals, surrealistic and dreamlike, kept me riveted throughout.