A slow week in between speaking engagements coupled with the opening of just one major film (the bleak The Break-Up) offers a lot of time for me to catch up on my DVD queue as well as screen six films for Denver’s Asian Film Festival. It’s something (the fest) that’s shaping up to be pretty special: a small program to be sure, but the place to be in this state’s capital the last three years or so for progressive cinema. The International Film Festival couldn’t/didn’t get Kim Ki-Duk’s Hwal, but the Asian Fest did, and if it’s not as great as Kim’s other films, it’s also being judged to a higher standard to begin with. My expectations are higher when I see a film by a favorite, even an admired, director. I never claimed to be objective. Who can?
The festival selections this year didn’t blow me away otherwise, but it’s got its heart and mind in the right place. The battle between art and commerce has been decided for years now – especially in the programming game – but the honesty with which this one’s been put together is heartening.
Watched and finally wrote a longish piece on David Lynch’s Eraserhead – every time I see the film reminding me of the first time I watched it a couple of decades ago, now, as a young pup not knowing what he was in for. For the longest time, my conversation about the film went hand-in-hand with The Evil Dead as pictures that affected me mysteriously. The refuge of youth was deriding the production values and the “stupidity” of the products – the reality of it was that they both kept me up at night, grabbing the sheets and sweating it out. Each time I’ve come back to the film (about once every couple of years), it’s been with a different eye and watching it this time with two kids, a mortgage, and a scary sleep debt, it finally clicked for me what it’s all about. Again. Amazing piece of work – and available in an excellent, finally widely available, DVD.
For leisure, watched Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s astonishing Pulse again after finding it at the markout bin of the local vid store for $3.99. If you haven’t seen it, it’s got a lot of thoughts in its head; finding good company in K. Kurosawa’s roster of brilliant, existential horror flicks. “J-horror” has become a devalued term lately with all the remakes and such, but look up Kurosawa’s stuff for a glimpse at what it means to be a culture where the worldview is so unremittingly nihilistic that Hello Kitty! is the only thing mutant cute enough to offer respite. A few images of the picture are indelible (SPOILER) the airplane going down behind a building, the cozy communion with the black streaks on the walls – the ludditism elevated to religion and why not? Technology hasn’t done the Japanese any favors. The ultimate suggestion of the film is that it hasn’t done any of us any favors. With films like these in the world, it does make one wonder what the hell one’s doing sitting in front of Cars and Da Vinci Code on a Saturday night. It’s scary, sure, but it’s scary because it’s smart – and more, it’s filmed with real tension and patience. This isn’t a picture that relies on jump scares: it’s a picture that relies on the placement of objects within the frame, the use of translucent scrims to cut off parts of the screen, the angle of cameras placed just so that a hallway receding into a near distance can be watched by the audience but not the characters.
Films that Polanski would make if he were young and Japanese.
Also watched Uwe Boll’s jaw-dropping Bloodrayne which comes packaged with the PC-version of the Bloodrayne 2 video game which I’m declining to play, having seen the film. I thought a long time about the obvious comparison of Boll with Ed Wood, but have decided that the critical difference is that at least Wood thought he was making great films.
Nanny McPhee is a surprise; a few more Tennessee Williams adaptations managed to stun (Richard Brooks deserves a serious critical revival – but Jose Quintero, not so much). Has there ever been a gayer non-gay film than The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone? That’s not a bad question to pose this week, come to think of it. Warren Beatty as an Italian gigolo reminds that there but for the grace of god goes George Hamilton. His turn in Kazan’s Splendor in the Grass that same year is seminal stuff for all its melodrama – I can’t wait to write about Mrs. Stone. Anybody have a good lead on a laserdisc for Mickey One, by the way?
Also watched Anthony Hopkins in Magic (prepping for it by watching the Von Stroheim-starring 1929 weirdo flick Gabbo the Great), and Jennifer Grey in the “Tales from the Crypt” remake of I Walked with a Zombie, Ritual. One’s surprisingly good. No fair peeking.
Bookmark Alex's review of Irwin Allen's '70s disaster cycle, by the way.
Here’s the screen capture – David H., your prize package has been delayed, but will be on its way by Tuesday: I promise it won't have been worth the wait:
Hot off the Presses (666):
Our Tennessee Tuesdays continues with John Huston's bazoom Night of the Iguana while we sort of mourn the death of F/X godfather Arthur Widmer, the inventor of among other things, the blue-screen process. I was sadder to learn of the passing of character actor Paul Gleason who, no matter all the roles he played throughout his career, will always be Principal Vernon for me.
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Pixcars, get it? Yeah, me neither.