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I said studio notes. Not MKS notes.

Was there at least a creepy Dan Aykroyd wink when Ray Parker Jr. sings the line "Bustin' makes me feel good"?


You know, for the fans.






Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la BÍte) - Second Jean Cocteau film I've watched after Orpheus. He does a surprisingly effective job of interpreting the fantastical aspects of the 1757 fairy tale. Surprising because this was shortly after WWII ended (1946) and there were myriad obstacles to overcome including a scarcity of film stock and frequent power outages. Fabric was in such short supply that when the film crew arrived at the film set each morning they'd often find out that someone had stolen the set's sheets and curtains. But Cocteau not only persevered he also improvised to great effect the Beast's enchanted castle with it's disembodied candelabra and living statuary and carvings.

Belle (Josette Day) lives with her father (Marcel Andrť), her two avaricious sisters, Fťlicie (Mila Parťly) and AdťlaÔde (Nane Germon) and her well meaning but still-a-lunkhead brother Ludovic (Michel Auclair). Ludovic's wastrel friend Avenant (Jean Marais) hangs around and tries to woo Belle to no great effect. The family fortune has disappeared along with her father's ships, which were lost at sea. One day he receives news that one of his ships has been found and has arrived at the port but unbeknowst to him his son Ludovic has signed a contract with a usurer that allows the moneylender to sue his father for damages if he cannot repay the loan. His father travels to the port but additional creditors have already seized his goods. Before he left he had asked his daughters what he could bring them when he returned and Belle had asked for a single rose.

On the way home the father gets lost in the dark woods but stumbles on the Beast's enchanted castle. The gates and doors open of their own accord and the floating candelabras and fully laden dining table welcome the tired man but the host is nowhere to be found. Upon waking in the morning he flees the castle but, remembering his promise to Belle, he stops to pluck a single rose. The Beast (also played by Jean Marais) appears out of nowhere and informs him that, even though he was welcome to anything in his home, the only things he was forbidden to touch were his roses. And that the penalty for this transgression was death. He tells the man he can go if one of his daughters takes his place, then offers him his white horse Magnificent, telling him to use a special phrase and the horse will take him wherever he wants to go.

After arriving home and relating the fantastical tale Rose blames herself and volunteers to take his place. He won't hear of it so she sneaks away in the middle of the night on Magnificent. Thus begins the the peculiar but effective courtship between the hirsute suitor (hirsuitor?) and the unassuming young woman. And that's how hundreds (if not thousands) of erotic fan fictions came to be. But with two greedy and conniving sisters, a dimbulb brother and a jilted suitor still at home there is of course remaining treachery afoot and it's handled with aplomb by Cocteau and cast. I did however find the recognizable ending strangely unsatisfying and borderline farcical which, as it turns out, was part of Cocteau's plan all along. So for once my intrinsic cynicism was in line with a directors intent.

90/100



Was there at least a creepy Dan Aykroyd wink when Ray Parker Jr. sings the line "Bustin' makes me feel good"?


You know, for the fans.
There was a ďwinkĒ that furthers an elephant in the room that nobody addresses at anytime in movie. A weird combination of ďtoo much, while being ambiguousĒ.



Outside the Wire 4/5
__________________
Donít sacrifice your own welfare
for that of another,
no matter how great.
Realizing your own true welfare,
be intent on just that.





By Promotional Scan, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19336782

Somers Town - (2008)

I enjoyed Shane Meadows' This is England so I thought I'd give his follow-up film, Somers Town a look. Thomas Turgoose from the former is back, this time as 'Tommo', a runaway from Nottingham who finds life on the streets a tough prospect and befriends the son of a Polish immigrant, Marek (Piotr Jagiello). There's something of an innocence to the pair as they get up to mischief and both try to woo the older Parisian Maria (Elisa Lasowski). Shot in black and white, the film has an easy-going Mike Leigh feel about it and harks back to those days of youth where things were a lot less complicated. Friendship and the difficult life of abandoned youth are explored in regards to how the streets of London function - as the boys either exploit, or are exploited by, those around them. Turgoose once again shows his winning sense of humour in what appears to be some improvised dialogue in scenes.

7/10


By imdb.com, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33730857

An Englishman in New York - (2009)

I haven't seen 1975 film The Naked Civil Servant but nonetheless felt it was not essential to it's 2009 follow-up where John Hurt reprises the role of Quentin Crisp. It had something of a 'made-for-television' feel and mainly exists as an outlet for many of Crisps 'witty' quotations which I found to be pretentious. A lot of people in his day and age took offense to many things he said, for example when he told and audience on one of his speaking tours that AIDS was "a fad". Not liking Crisp, I found this film to be a little difficult to watch, despite Hurt giving a tremendous performance.

5/10


By https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon....4ODc3._V1_.jpg, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53097843

Mayor of the Sunset Strip - (2003)

Okay, Rodney Bingenheimer. A strange man, and a difficult person to read. Shy, awkward and quiet, he exists on a level that belies everything he is, rubbing shoulders with the biggest celebrities there have ever been over the last 50 years. Elvis, David Bowie, John Lennon, Paul McCartney you name it - he knows them personally. This documentary followed him for around 6 years and takes a close look at his life and career as probably the greatest groupie in history. At the time he was a DJ for a radio station in Los Angeles that could make or break musicians and bands - before that operating an exclusive disco that the stars would frequent. Despite his status, he's still one of those awkward guys without a girlfriend - which is what makes him a great enigma.

7/10


Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16147677

The Descent - (2005)

Claustrophobic in the extreme, this film made me squirm and palpitate long before the monsters come along - they make a bad situation worse for the women in this horror film from Neil Marshall. I have to say it's one of the better such films from the 2000s, with a new branch on the evolutionary tree existing in a cave system that you don't want to become stuck in. It's second half isn't as good as it's first, but that's just a quibble - because good horror films are hard to find.

7/10


By The poster art can or could be obtained from IFC Films., Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1618681

The Ballad of Jack & Rose - (2005)

Jack (Daniel Day-Lewis) lives with his daughter Rose (Camilla Belle) on what was once an experimental commune, and is dying. When he introduces a new woman (Katherine - played by Catherine Keener) and her two sons to the mix Rose becomes something of a loose cannon and conflict erupts. Paul Dano plays one of the sons, uniting onscreen with Day-Lewis a couple of years before they'd go head-to-head in There Will Be Blood. Aside from that and some good performances this film didn't hit any stupendous heights.

6/10
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My movie ratings often go up or down a point or two after more reflection, research and rewatches.

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Paul Dano plays one of the sons, uniting onscreen with Day-Lewis a couple of years before they'd go head-to-head in There Will Be Blood.
Are you a fan of TWBB, by the way?





The Housemaid, 1960

Mr. Kim (Jin Kyu Kim) is a composer who teaches piano lessons to young women who work at a factory, while his wife, Mrs. Kim (Jeung-nyeo Ju) works as a seamstress. The two have two children and Mrs. Kim is expecting their third. Overwhelmed by the demands of their new, large home, the Kims decide to hire a housemaid. Thus into their lives comes Myung-sook (Eun-Shim Lee), whose first day on the job involves her catching a rat with her bare hands and things only go downhill from there. Seducing Mr. Kim and using whatever leverage she can get over the couple, Myung-sook gradually takes a more and more powerful role in the home.

This film is highly regarded, and that's a good thing, because describing its dynamics and tone seems a bit beyond me at the moment. On one hand, the film is intensely over the top and veers into comedic territory with how overwrought certain sequences are. But on the other hand, the angles used for the different scenes and the intensity of the performances--especially Eun-Shim Lee's spectacularly unhinged turn in the lead role--lend the film a genuine sense of tension and dread. Nothing, to me, sums up this film better than a sequence in which Mrs. Kim goes to confront Myung-sook, who is banging away tonelessly on the house piano. It's funny and scary at the same time, and the whole film walks that line.

The repeated shots of the household's staircase---and the arrangement of who is at the top and who is at the bottom--made me think of Parasite, and this film similarly has some observations about the intersection between power and class. While this film isn't necessarily as interested in the upper-class/lower-class dynamics, it makes some very pointed observations about the relationship between those who are able to hire others to do domestic labor and those who are hired for that work. A frequent refrain from people who hire help, and especially those who hire live-in help, is "Oh, [employee] is just like family!". This film takes that statement and extends it to terrifying extremes.

I suppose the only issue I had with the film is the way that Myung-sook's actions stand so much at the forefront. It's an amazing performance from Lee as she transforms into a lusty, feral creature prowling around the house, alternating between haughty demands and simpering at the feet of her employers. But her behavior--and specifically what feels like mental illness--means that the actions of the Kims seem to pale by comparison. But some of the actions from the Kims, especially what they do when they learn that Myung-sook is pregnant by Mr. Kim, are horrific. It's just that their cruelties are more mannered. But this contrast means that the film can lean into feeling like a "crazy woman" narrative instead of what it seems to be aiming for, which is a story that places blame on both sides of the events.

I was also really torn on the film's epilogue, as in I can't decide if it's perfect or if I hate it.

This one is on the Criterion Channel and I'd highly recommend it.








SF = Z


[Snooze Factor Ratings]:
Z = didn't nod off at all
Zz = nearly nodded off but managed to stay alert
Zzz = nodded off and missed some of the film but went back to watch what I missed
Zzzz = nodded off and missed some of the film but went back to watch what I missed but nodded off again at the same point and therefore needed to go back a number of times before I got through it...
Zzzzz = nodded off and missed some or the rest of the film but was not interested enough to go back over it





Influenza, 2004

In this short film from Bong Joon-ho, an unemployed man embarks on an increasingly brutal series of crimes, with all of the footage of his actions taken from CCTV footage.

There's something really fun about watching a short film that just undoubtedly comes from a certain creator. This film is covered head-to-toe with Bong's signature observations about class, greed, irony, dark humor, startling violence, and clever staging.

The film begins with the man in front of a mirror in a public bathroom, practicing a sales pitch for a miracle glue. He glues two objects together as a demonstration . . . .only to have the objects fall apart. The other men in the bathroom remain disdainfully uninterested in him.

And from there, it's a spiral. At one point the man picks up a woman who acts as his accomplice. As the film continues, their acts of theft becomes more and more brutal. In one of the film's funniest sequences, they rob an elderly woman after she takes money from an ATM. With painstaking delicacy, the man performs a slow-motion leg sweep on the woman, lowering her gently to the ground after he takes her cash. When the accomplice enters, the elderly woman begs for help . . . only for the accomplice to perform the same slow-motion leg sweep and this time steal her ATM card.

But the next time we see the couple, they've upped their game to include weapons, and their attack on a man in a parking garage is brutal.

This was a great little short film and the conceit of the security footage as the "camera" is incredibly well-done. Even after the most savage acts of violence, the camera zooms in and out or pans automatically, indifferent to what it has just witnessed. Highly recommended.




Invisible Man (2020)


A rewatch of one of the pleasant surprises of 2020. Great psychological horror that Elisabeth Moss excels in.



Argo (2012)

This was not bad but a bit stodgy. The historical aspects are good as is the acting but the script is a bit "TV movie".

That said,



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The River Of Hope - 8/10
Another excellent Egyptian movie, starring Faten Hamama and Omar Sharif. It's on YouTube with subtitles, and I'll paste it below.








Mirage, 1990

A group of young people meet in the desert for a weekend of hanging out, sex, and stupidity. But unfortunately for them, a mysterious figure in a menacing black truck has his eye on them, and things get very bloody very fast.

I'm not going to give this film a rating of 5. I'm not. But if you could give a rating based on how well a movie fits your needs at a certain time, this one would be near perfect.

This week, as I've alluded to in other posts, has been very challenging, and I often turn to TV or movies to help me feel better. Nothing, however, has really been hitting the spot. I've watched plenty of good, or even great (The Housemaid) films, but none that made me feel better afterward.

Enter Mirage.

This movie is so perfectly stupid, I felt my heart lift as frequently of the shirt of the actress who was clearly hired mainly to do just that.

The pitch-perfect dumb starts right off the bat, as two of the main characters have sex in the bed of a pickup truck that is hurtling through the desert, a toolbox weighing down the accelerator. The seemingly endless desert landscape is beautiful and otherworldly. These main characters are clearly dumb as a bag of rocks.

From there, the good times continue to roll. The characters, and especially one of the guys who kills a rabbit for fun, are just the correct level of unlikable so that their deaths will not move your emotional needle one centimeter. There is a very, very long montage of the characters playing football very poorly.

The gore is surprisingly decent, defying the low-budget feel of most of the rest of the film. The figure in the black pickup is appropriately menacing, at least until he steps out of his vehicle and is just kind of a goober. But maybe an immortal one? One character has cutouts in her pants just below her buttcheeks. For reasons that are not clear, a bow and arrow feature more prominently than you'd think.

Anyway, the way that the villain says "Nice bow" may have cured about 30% of my depression.






Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?



The King and the Clown aka Wang-ui namja (2005)

While the characters themselves were based on historical figures, this triangular love story between two bawdy clowns and a tyrannical, mentally scarred King during the Chosun Dynasty in Korea was exquisite and hauntingly captivating film experience. It was filled with sensual conflicts and incorporated various story-based skits with two-fold meanings that delved deeper into the characters' psyche than any dialogue could.

When I first sat down to watch this, I wasn't entirely sure what or where this would lead and did not expect the depth of emotion and elaborate spectacle that awaited me, and even after a week since watching this, it still lingers, which says a lot for this exceptional film.

What I find extraordinary is that while I can hint at what this film is about, it can never truly explore and define it appropriately. It still falls short of the subtle layers that draw so profoundly upon us, the viewers, even describing the main story.
Jang-sang and Gong-il are two tightrope acrobatic clowns that perform dirty stories to the delight of their crowds. Upon reaching Seoul, they take a precarious theatrical move by satirizing the King and his Mistress and are quickly sentenced to death.
Taken before the King, they petition to perform the damning piece in an attempt to stay their execution. If the King laughs, they live; if not, they die, on the spot.
But, the King laughs, and they are given, to the chagrin of the Council Members, not only a stay of execution but now must continue to entertain this volatile King that forever dances on the needle's head of his mental scars beyond his infatuation with the androgynous Gong-il.
__________________
What to do if you find yourself stuck with no hope of rescue:
Consider yourself lucky that life has been good to you so far. Alternatively, if life hasn't been good to you so far, which given your present circumstances seems more likely, consider yourself lucky that it won't be troubling you much longer.





Incoherence, 1994

In the space of a day, three stories unfold. First, a university professor must scramble to keep a female colleague (student?) from discovering his porn stash. In the second story, a man creates problems for a newspaper delivery man when he frames the man for stealing. Finally, a local district attorney, needing a bathroom, gets into conflicts when he tries to use the bathroom in different public spaces.

This is an early film from Bong Joon-ho, and, like Influenza, the style and structure of the film is very familiar. The stories on their own are interesting, each with their own nice little touches. The film is about hypocrisy and power, and in different ways the segments speak to this.

I appreciated some of the smaller pieces of each segment. For example, while the main action of the first segment is centered on the professor hiding his porn, a much more damning moment for me was when he comes up behind a young woman and pulls down the shoulder of her sweater by way of greeting.

The final act of the short is very predictable, but it still makes its point about the kind of people who claim to be moral authorities, and how they actually behave in their personal lives.




Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?



Army of Thieves (2021)
Set as a prequel to the current Army of the Dead on Netflix, delving into an almost Origin storyline of one of them (I think) lesser characters who indeed commands this prequel. Matthias SchweighŲfer is a geeky megafan of safecracking. Specifically, three individual safes inspired the mythos of the Germanic legend, Seigried. And surprise, surprise, he gets pulled into a mega-heist of the first two of them.
Full of flash and style and over-the-top premises, Matthias's character, done splendidly by Ludwig Dieter, keeps a grounded, endearing center to this caper film with the usual checked-off list of its genre.

Funny, fast-paced with Dieter supplying a naive wonder that got me fully engaged from the get-go.





Beyond All Barriers, 1989

This documentary shows footage from the 1988 Seoul Olympics, with particularly heavy emphasis on the opening ceremonies.

I really enjoy Olympic documentaries, especially ones like White Rock that lend you a sense of the immediacy and experience of the events.

This documentary, for me, was so-so. The opening ceremony was undeniably beautiful and well-choreographed and colorful. The gestures at addressing the historical tragedies and conflicts were done tastefully and with a spirit of reconciliation.

But 50 minutes is a long time for me to watch this type of footage. It mostly exists in long shots--which highlight the scale and symmetry and coordination of the performances--but there is a degree of detachment that was never quite bridged for me.

Then the film transitions into footage of the games themselves. And while many of the shots were beautiful, there was again a lack of intimacy. Aside from one or two faces, I did not recognize most of the athletes. We are shown snippets of different events, often in slow motion, but not given a lot of context.

I'm on track to watch two more Olympic documentaries about the Seoul Olympics this week, and it will be interesting to see how they approach the topic. I'm particularly excited about one called Hand in Hand.




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JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass


This just came out. Available via Prime (free trial) or directly through Showtime.



I would watch "The Jim Garrison Tapes" first, which is available thanks to the producer John Barbour (linked below)