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A few reviews . . (film or TV) — Page 56


Survey Map Of A Paradise Lost - 1988 - 6/10
AKA - Hard Focus // Nusumi-giki // フォーカス 盗聴<ぬすみぎき

Journalist, investigating phone sex clubs, contacts a 17-year-old part-timer who works at the Banana Club.
She is busy, however, with an older man (29), who is deeply into bondage and sadism.
Rough, seedy pinku eiga, is definitely not for newcomers nor the squeamish.
Behind all the ruttings and configurations, there are mysteries.
The attraction between a telephone employee (wiretapping) and an underage girl.
There is an ugly death. Also rumors of videotapes.
Our journalist, still investigating, plays an everyman onlooker, forced to watch the sordid.


Hitler’s Circle Of Evil - 2018 - 8/10

Very good, incisive documentary on Hitler’s coterie, his inner circle.
Augmented with talking heads (historians and writers), photos and newsreels, and modern players re-enacting sequences (no dialogue).
Aside from the usual names (Goebbels, Göring, Himmler), this also devotes time to Bormann, Speer and the barely remembered Dietrich Eckart. Hess is given his own episode, as is Reinhard Heydrich (who, in trending movies and docs, seems to be rising in the villain echelon to rock star level).
Focus is on the compartmentalization of power, back-stabbing, and shifting alliances.
The actors used to reenact scenes were well cast - but - producers changed the players midway.
Yes, it was to show older versions, but it was jarring and irritating.
Otherwise, this is outstanding, though perhaps not the best intro for those curious about WWII.


On Chesil Beach - 2017 - 6/10

Methodically structured love tale of star crossed lovers.
Crescendo followed by diminuendo.
The initial meeting. Eyes lock, the attraction is instant. The gradual absorption of the other.
The narrative pivots from this youthful connection to the fateful moment of intimacy.
They are awkward, taboos in 1962 are overpowering.
In flashbacks, one views gulfs in backgrounds, wealth, class.
Despite those, you root for the couple to navigate their misgivings and phobias.
Together, they share the real spark of an enduring love.
One can empathize, all of us have connected deeply with an other - and failed dismally with others.


Snow White And The Huntsman - 2012 - 5/10

Grabbed this from shelf with low expectations.
First thirty minutes were surprisingly enjoyable and raised my hopes.
Dark version has roots in 1997‘s Tale Of Terror rather than the Disney songfest.
Theron gives layered performance as malevolent Ravenna.
Incredible costumes well thought set design. Film undercut, however, by the director unable to cut the unnecessary and the distracting.
Useless comic relief, and a faerie sequence that is fey, dopey, and aimed at four year olds.

Aspiring editors: This was one of the few films I’ve watched and grasped how it could be improved, and what scenes needed jettisoning.
Those pesky dwarves, the faeries. Snowy herself, what a dunce.
Good thing I don’t edit. Ravenna would win.


Crime Is Our Business - 2008 - 6/10
AKA - Le Crime est Notre Affaire

Prudence is bored, so bored with retirement!
Relocating to the countryside only magnified her ennui.
Then, her aunt, traveling via train, sees a murder in a passing train.
Train inspectors, local gendarmes, give a cursory search. No body.
Prudence works out where this may have occurred, near the castle of wolves.
There, cluster feuding relatives, inheritances, and more deaths.
Breezy French mystery is parts Miss Marple (plot) and parts Tommy & Tuppence (our couple).


Killing Eve: S01 - 2018 - 6/10

Had no interest in this series, but someone else started and, slag that I am, I found myself watching.
And enjoying … at first.
Eve is a quirky investigator soon toiling for a clandestine offshoot of MI5.
The group is seeking Villanelle, a smiling assassin working for mysterious higher-ups.
Initial episodes combine humor with lethal discipline.
Villanelle is nothing if not resourceful, with an impish, giggling streak.
Later episodes foolishly start to dissipate the mystery of the assassin.
Akin to the fourth date when you realize your hot date picks their teeth, bites their nails, and has oral hygiene issues.
Too late, producers grasp they have a hit show. The writing room slows the pace dramatically and the narrative grows very talky.
First four episodes = 7/10. Last four episodes = 5/10.


City Island - 2009 - 6/10

“New York" yarn of prison guard, who sees the son of an abandoned girlfriend during lockup rounds.
Signs the release papers so the convict can help remodel his outdoor work shack.
Does not inform his “son" or anyone else of kinship.
Introduce wife, daughter, son. Everyone has their secrets. PG secrets.
Feel-good time waster, not too unbelievable. Attractive looking cast.
Film might be too Bronx for many.


Black Belly Of The Tarantula - 1971 - 6/10
AKA - La Tarantola Dal Ventre Nero

Beautiful women are being murdered … after first being paralyzed.
Police hunts for clues, yet the victims are seemingly unconnected.
Perhaps after more deaths, the killer will make a mistake.
The inspector in charge wonders if he is cut out for the job, too
Fairly coherent Giallo has a creepy voyeuristic undercurrent.
Hummable score by Morricone. Look for Bond girls Claudine Auger and Barbara Bach.
Good, narrative wise, but lacks the style and panache of the top Giallos.


Hannah Arendt - 2012 - 7/10

Narrow bio-pic of philosopher, focusing on her New Yorker essays on the Eichman trial.
Her opinion opted that Eichman was a mere functionary of the Nazis. At once, a non-thinking paper pusher, as well as the necessary machinery involved in the Holocaust.
Howls of protest erupted, as victims preferred a face of pure evil.
Her thoughts regarding the culpability of Jewish leaders in Europe bearing responsibility for their part in cooperation brought even more fury.
Friends abandoned her, school administrators attempted to curtail her classes, a Mossad unit “visited.”
Quiet, chilling film. Subtitles are a must, as dialogue shifts from English to German to Hebrew.


Vitalina Varela - 2019 - 6/10

Wife Vitalina travels from Cape Verde to Lisbon following the death of her husband.
He, like so many migrants, came to work, make his fortune. Only he stayed for 40 years.
His story – her story – their story, is told amidst shadows and silences.
Indeed, this is one of the darkest films I have viewed, and casual viewers might mistake the “look” for Horror.
Dialogue is spare, and soft. Quiet prevails throughout,
It can also be excruciatingly slow, waiting for “something” to happen, hoping anything will happen.
Ultimately, this became a pain to watch. Numbing.


Stakeout On Dope Street - 1958 - 5/10

As soon as the cuffs snap shut, the bust goes south.
Gunfire echoes across the industrial sector, bleak and forsaken at 2:00 AM.
Afterward, two men, the decent cop and the low level courier, sprawl face down, their life blood pooling into the asphalt.
Yet what about the briefcase? The one carrying the stuff when the courier had been arrested?
Stuff, as in horse, “H”, smack, junk. Heroin. Cancer for the soul, straight from the needle.
The briefcase had vanished.

Law enforcement squeezes the block. From penny ante chiselers to honey tongued hookers. From narrow eyed pawn brokers to dim witted muscle outside bolted doors.
At the other end, the syndicate unrolls its tentacles. Enforcers sweep cheap clubs, brothels, reefer merchants, filthy gin joints, back rooms choked with cigarette smoke.
No one knows that three young men had found the briefcase. The men know it brings trouble, but they know it can swing neon dreams. Not that they have any dreams yet, not even plans. They talk big, though.
When they decide to peddle the goods themselves, they sign their own death warrant.

B-Noir, which, despite the Warners shield, resembles a Poverty Row knockoff.
Aside from Abby Dalton and Jonathan Haze, most of the cast are unknowns and act like a convention of fenceposts.
Much of the filming occurs in the city dump and a bowling alley.
Jazzy score helps. The first half has a propulsive energy, second half enters a moral quagmire.
One of the better talk sequences comes from a aging hophead.
Strapped to a hospital bed, going cold turkey. The narcotic monkey, clawing out his eyes, twisting his stomach into knots, crushing his balls, ripping his backbone.

Four agonizing days, until then he’s clean.
Cold turkey, three times.
And each time, like a broken lover, he finds himself crawling back to the needle.


Murder In Brides-les-Bains - 2018 - 6/10
AKA - Meurtres à Brides-les-Bains

The body of a murderer who had been in hiding for years is found lakeside.
Suspects? Plenty!
The new gendarme chief arrives to question the dead man’s wife … err … widow.
Who also happens to be the chief’s mother.

Passable mystery has several convolutions, and probably too many suspects.
Fantastic scenery (view above is from “mom’s“ balcony).
Watchable, though not especially memorable.


I Know A Woman Like That - 2009 - 6/10

Lively, often funny documentary about feminists or empowered females.
Not the current crop. These are the standard bearers, now in their later years.
Eartha Kitt, Gloria Steinem, Rita Moreno are among the fifteen or so women of a certain age.
Interviews are very much “where you are now” sort.
Little reference to pasts, and no younger pictures.
Actors, civic leaders, publishers, athletes, writers, artists …
Not sure who this is aimed at. Females, of course, though under 35 seem like an unlikely audience.
Possibly middle aged women, hoping there remains the chance for a third act.


Backfire - 1950 - 5/10

More appropriate title might have been “Misfire”.
Ex-GI about to be released from vet hospital, plans to run ranch with foxhole buddy.
Middle of the night, a mysterious woman visits his bed and warns same friend is in trouble.
Fine Noir cast (Dane Clark, Edmund O’Brien, Ed Begley) struggle with poor script and clunky direction.
When the G I exits hospital, hot nurse invites him to dinner, then to her place.
“No, no, I gotta find my buddy, Steve!”
Bad choice, pilgrim. All wrong.


The Man Who Walked Through Walls - 2016 - 6/10
AKA - Le Passe-Muraille

Émile works in the exciting world of insurance claims!
Unnoticed by coworkers, he seldom talks except to his Alzheimer’s mother, or his ex during alimony day.
His drabness could stem from the medication he has taken for 30+ years, for reasons he no longer recalls.
When the meds are discontinued, he develops an ability to walk through solid walls.
So … what would you do?
Many different directions this could take, say if you were a serial killer, peeper, thief.
This takes the light comedy route, delivering more smiles than laughs.


The Go-Go’s - 2020 - 7/10

Plenty here for fans of the punk band who morphed into power pop sweethearts.
Fairly amazing footage of early years at the Masque and Whisky.
The girls are also frank about misdeeds and betrayals.
That includes those who were fired or jettisoned for “the next level.”
Enjoyment varies. The meteoric rise is thrilling. Sustaining the peak proved difficult.
Of the females interviewed, two are blunt and funny, two are direct and honest, one is a career diplomat.

A startling moment (for me) came early on, as the camera panned down a monthly lineup of groups performing at one of the clubs. I recognized several I had actually seen, and had not thought of in decades.


In The Realms Of The Unreal - 2004 - 7/10

Documentary on Henry Darger, janitor and outsider artist.
After he was shifted to hospital, where he died, Darger’s 15000 page, illustrated novel was discovered in flat.
Obsessions play out across the pages, tracking his fantasy kingdom heroines, the Vivian girls, and the atrocities of the child slave wars.

Film told in voiceovers from actors and people who knew Darger.
Fascinating from start to finish, though shifting back and forth from Darger to his art, creates a documentary of halves and neither is fully satisfying. For all the drawings shown, I still wanted more.


Ringu - 1998 - 8/10
AKA - リング

Watershed moment for dead wet girls everywhere.
After her niece mysteriously dies, her aunt (reporter) hears whispers of the cursed VHS.
Discovers similar deaths of other students. Enlists her ex (estranged) husband to help. He has psychic abilities.
Immaculate composition throughout - every scene balanced and beautifully arranged.
Terrific sound editing, as well. From moody score, to disconcerting effects in rear speakers.
Narrative at once enigmatic and logical. A terrific after hours film, with all distractions switched off.
Launched numerous remakes and sequels, all inferior.


Confidentially Yours - 1983 - 7/10
AKA - Vivement Dimanche! // Finally Sunday

Final Truffaut film is an homage to Hitchcock.
After a hunter is murdered near the marsh, police investigate Mr. Vercel.
Vercel, a realtor, was also out hunting, his prints are found, and his wife was having an affair with the deceased.
Worse for Vercel, more damning evidence builds.
Who comes to his aid? Why, his secretary, Barbara, whom he fired.
The plot has more twists than a monkey puzzle tree, and the pace is brisk.
Confusing at times, yes, but hold on and enjoy this last farewell.


Ring Virus - 1999 - 6/10
AKA - 링

S Korean remake of the J-Horror classic.
Watching cursed VHS tape leads to death in seven days.
This version filmed matter-of-fact, audio mix not very detailed.
The two protagonists were older, and unrelated.
Several sequences relied on viewer familiarity with the original. Such as the young child explaining who “told her” to act accordingly. Also, why the male protagonist, in this case a flawed surgeon, was drawn into the mystery to begin with.
Marketing claims aside, K version is not the “scariest version of them all."
Worth a view, but does not eclipse the original.


Good Ol’ Freda - 2013 - 6/10

Feel good movie about one of the forgotten inner-circle members of The Beatles entourage.
Freda Kelly, Brian Epstein’s secretary and head of the official fan club.
What secrets Freda knows, she keeps. This is not the doc for dirt or scandal.
Shows her early introduction to group via the Cavern Club, getting the job offer, being accepted by individual Beatles as well as their families.
Vintage photos, different speakers. Perhaps better for older Beatles fans, particularly fan club members.


Sanz And The Secret Of His Art - 1918 - 6/10
AKA - Sanz y el Secreto de su Arte

Documentary / comedy set in the world of ventriloquist Francisco Sanz and his automats.
Most were staged in salons (likely for the well-heeled) or the stage.
At once you see Sanz interacting with his partners, usually with comedy.
Next, you observe behind the scenes. How the foils work, their construction and operation.
One of the characters, Don Liborio, soon has enough, and he departs the troupe.
We then follow Don Liborio’s travels, adventures, and dalliances.
Creaky at times, but essential for anyone interested in puppets, mannikins, dummies or automata.

Online (2021) =


Guide To The Flipside Of British Cinema - 2010 - 7/10

Documentary short, but an essential one for outlier cinema fans.
Kim Newman provides a merry tour of 60’s and 70’s forgotten films.
Exploitation, pretentious arthouse, experimental, and erotica.
Most of the ones shown have been restored, visually they are excellent.
Of the ~20 films Newman mentions, (I had viewed 6-7) there were a handful I now must find!
Fast paced, fun, and reverent.
Watch for Helen Mirren in 67’s Herostratus.


Cry Danger - 1951 - 6/10

Solid B-film Noir with Dick Powell, William Conrad, Rhonda Fleming.
Lifer Powell released from the big house after five years.
He was the driver in a robbery, but caught the rap for the actual job.
Once out, he starts kicking the big dogs, demanding half the dough for his trouble.
The plot sours.
Film packed with hard men, fast broads, and dialogue drenched in acid.
Brisk 79 minutes.


Finding Your Feet - 2017 - 6/10

During the housewarming party, wife discovers her husband has been having an affair with her best friend.
The wife, a snob and social climber, soon moves herself into her boho sister’s flat.
What follows is the clash of class and cultures.
Oldsters predominate in this feel good fluff about finding one’s true values and learning to dance!
Well cast and acted throughout, but story is a scroll of clichés, bordering on corn.
Should be a hit with your gran.