My 2024 Watchlist Obsession!

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I forgot the opening line.


Directed by : Toshio Matsumoto

I became aware of Toshio Matsumoto when I first watched Shura (known variously as Demons, Pandemonium or The Pandemonium), looked him up, and discovered the odd fact that he only ever made 4 feature films. Shura (1971) was fantastic, but the film he's really known for is Funeral Parade of Roses - his 1969 avant-garde experimental movie examining the transgender underground scene in Tokyo. To be fair, I must mention the fact that he made many short films in his lifetime and his artistic output was varied - but that doesn't mean his features aren't some of the best films of all time. I had no idea that I'd be wrestling with something so profound and free-spirited when I started this, although I'd already figured that it'd be something very original and different. At times I was thinking about Alain Resnais film Hiroshima Mon Amour, mainly because of the lyrical, fragmentary way everything comes to us in Roses - where you have to open yourself up to the process and trust that you're feeling what Matsumoto wants you to feel.

Eddie (Shinnosuke Ikehata, aka Peter) is the transvestite protagonist whose life we'll get to know very well in piecemeal fashion throughout Funeral Parade of Roses - sleeping with drug dealer Gonda (Yoshio Tsuchiya) and meshing with fellow transvestites, the protest scene in Tokyo, a gay bar, art exhibits, a group of filmmakers and life in general. As we see scenes from a kaleidoscopic timeline, the film also steps outside of itself to interview various characters and people in straight documentary fashion - or else it will do something completely out of the blue that reshapes what we've been watching into something new, or in a way that spins us around a dozen or so times, making us dizzy and purposely stirring up the water. For example - a visit to an art gallery has a speaker speaking to an audience (us) directly about the way we all wear masks on top of masks in social situations and the various guises these masks come in. As Eddie examines some of the hideous paintings in the gallery, we see that the speaker is really a tape player, and various ghostly sillhoettes haunt the room. Eddie had run to this place as refuge, and now we're pulsating to some kind of murderous flashback as the score pounds, paintings swirl.

I don't know if it's possible for a person to get all of Funeral Parade of Roses the first time through it, but after a familiarization it opens up to the viewer who might be at first confounded by the film. It's certainly far greater and more assured than I expected. Matsumoto's feature debut seems to be coming from someone who might have been directing features for a lifetime. It uses so many different styles, techniques and ways of communicating ideas that it was a little overwhelming at first. Documentary realism slowly morphs into completely stylized avant-garde experimentation and back again - but always with great purpose and deliberately guided. I wondered throughout how acceptable being a transvestite was for someone living in late '60s Tokyo, and how progressive this was for a Japanese film in many ways. I have to admit that it's a pretty remarkable film all-up, and probably one of the best films I've seen this year (on 2023's second-last day.) Not bad considering Shura was also pretty great. My watchlist viewing schedule has opened with a parade of outstanding features.

Glad to catch this one - #143 on the Letterboxd Top 250 films!

Watchlist Count : 449 (-1)

Next : Scum (1979)

Thank you very much to whomever inspired me to watch Funeral Parade of Roses
Remember - everything has an ending except hope, and sausages - they have two.
We miss you Takoma

Latest Review : Aftersun (2022)

I forgot the opening line.

SCUM (1979)

Directed by : Alan Clarke

I feel like I've seen many films like Scum over the years - although the specific institution up for examination here is the average British borstal. A troubled kid would do something wrong, go in this place, and come out a hardened young criminal - there was no reforming done here. Just brutalization. The average citizen would never see what went on there - and as such the BBC's Play for Today program was going to air what director Alan Clarke and scribe Roy Minton put together. It ended up being too much - and was never televised, so the pair had to remake the whole thing (this time with a free hand, so they could show anything they wanted.) Graphic depictions of suicide, rape and violence were rare for British films of that time, but the system was rotten enough to really need exposing. The kids would brutalize the guards, and the guards the kids - and even in the 20th Century there was a kind of medieval feel to the whole place. What gets me most is the cruel attitude most of those in charge have - with absolutely no interest in turning the lives of these boys around.

If you didn't know that the boy called Carlin in this is played by Ray Winstone, you wouldn't guess it. At some stage of his life, Winstone's older gruff look transformed what was once a fresh, smooth-faced kid (closest to us above.) The performances in this - yeah, they're okay. There's only a lot demanded from the kids who lose it in the end. Poor Davis (Julian Firth) and a few others. The institution is racist from the top to the bottom, so darker skinned kids get abuse from both the warders and the white kids. Lord help you then if you're not white. The nature of these indemic faults in the system are apparent in one of the scenes I found to be funny - the 'physical education' or sports scene where the kids are playing some kind of game (it's so out of control it might be basketball or rugby - I couldn't tell) and just start attacking each other and hurting each other with the single aim of winning the ball, ending up in one big scrum. But most of all it's just hate, hate, hate. The warders make no beef about tearing these kids apart psychologically - any way they can.

The worst of it comes during a rape scene that one of the warders witnesses, and then just watches on without doing anything. He even has a slight smirk on his face. Often, when a kid is beat up badly he's the one who is punished, because his bruised, bleeding face proves that he was "fighting" - so you can be assaulted, and then punished after it. That puts the whole system into a nutshell - there's no justice, and no good work being done. Some of these kids can be turned away from criminality, but they're never given the chance, or a second thought. You'd expect to see this in 18th Century Britain, but not in the 1970s - and as such while I hear about reform, I really hope there actually has been some concrete steps taken reform-wise. The film itself is okay. Important even. Although both Ken Loach and Mike Leigh were already working around this time, I'd like to think it's realism influenced the kind of work they went on to do in their careers. Films with a social conscience. Films about reality. Films that help usher in long overdue change.

Glad to catch this one - 7.6/10 from 13k votes on the IMDb, which is a pretty decent rating.

Watchlist Count : 448 (-2)

Next : Joint Security Area (2000)

Thank you very much to whomever inspired me to watch Scum

I forgot the opening line.


Directed by : Park Chan-wook

When I watch my watchlist movies I tend to go in as blind as I can - I've already decided they're movies I really want to see, so there's no reason to screen each movie on the list. Going that route on Joint Security Area, I thought at first glance it looked a little like a mix between war and action. Then I saw who directed it, and went "woah!" Park Chan-wook? Oldboy? Decision to Leave? This wasn't going to be some random action movie. JSA is in fact part mystery, and part reflection on the division between North and South Korea. It starts after there's been an incident at the demarcation point between North and South. Apparently a South Korean soldier was kidnapped, and escaped after killing a couple of North Korean soldiers. The only problem is, everybody has a very different story to tell. Major Sophie E. Jean (Lee Young-ae) is brought in to investigate, and the truth behind this whole occurrence is both stranger and more surprising than anyone could ever have imagined.

This was another excellent movie on the list - it takes a sharp turn away from everything I thought it was going to be, and has at it's core a very touching, meaningful story that also made the whole film very interesting and thought-provoking. It also has some of my favourite South Korean actors in it. Song Kang-ho I'd just enjoyed in movies like Broker, and was also great in Parasite, Snowpiercer, The Host and many others. He must surely be the biggest star they have over there. All of the main players are great in this, and give really genuine traits to their various characters - their humanity rising above their roles as nameless, faceless troops guarding one of the most contentious borders in the world. I'm avoiding the plot - I think anyone who watches this deserves to go in without knowing exactly what happened. The other aspect to the film that really shines is the cinematography - guided by the very inventive eye of the director.

Yes, visually you see flourish after flourish - I think that's one of Park Chan-wook's trademarks, and was something I wasn't expecting in this kind of film (before I knew who made it.) Shots from every kind of angle, transitions that center on a certain shape, object or colour - along with revealing what's beautiful in the ordinary. So overall this was very satisfying - an exploration of what's beneath the uniform, and the tragedy of circumstance that the border between North and South Korea is. It's a rare case of both sides being particularly the same due to the fact that North was separated from South relatively recently. I saw soldiers on the film's poster and thought this would be a film where guns are blazing, and grenades flying through the air. There are brief moments that are explosive, but this movie is more about heart and humanity than war. More mystery than action. Park Chan-wook's first really great film, and his breakthrough. I highly recommend it.

Glad to catch this one - one of Quentin Tarantino's twenty favorite films since 1992.

Watchlist Count : 447 (-3)

Next : The Rescue (2021)

Thank you very much to whomever inspired me to watch Joint Security Area

I forgot the opening line.


Directed by : Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin

I think nearly all of us watched on and remember the Tham Luang cave rescue in 2018. The seeming impossibility of a successful rescue was such that the cave divers called in from around the world were going to pack up and leave the 13 (12 kids and their soccer coach) in the cave. They were actually going to leave them. You only get a sense of what faced the rescuers when their trip through the cave system in Thailand is detailed step by step - and that's something The Rescue does very well. It maps the space out in 3 dimensions as these cave divers describe the difficulties that can be faced (and were faced) - difficulties I'd never be able to face. Claustrophobic, I'd panic even before I got into the water. The very idea of cave diving scares me - as does exploring cave systems where there's not much room to wriggle through elongated passages. If I stop and think about it for a moment, I feel the stress rising just through visualization. Getting stuck in a narrow passage deep down, and not being able to wriggle out, is pure horror - and I'd lose it.

Even though this event didn't happen all that long ago, there's already half a dozen documentaries and feature films made about it. Most notable is 2022 feature Thirteen Lives, which I actually saw before The Rescue. Which is better? I think The Rescue manages to make the whole process feel more tense, and much more connected to the real world without film stars such as Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell, Joel Edgerton and Tom Bateman being shoved in our faces. I'm far too conscious of who I'm watching in that case, and can't immerse myself to the degree I'd ordinarily be able to do. Real footage of the drama also helps to a very great degree. There are details that don't fit easily into a scripted film - details that can much more easily be provided to an audience through the direct words of those involved. All of it combines to make this the preferred choice in my estimation, for bringing this specific story to us. The world's media descended on the place, and there's not much that wasn't recorded - and this doc also makes use of various news broadcasts.

So, a good documentary? Yes - a cut above the average one, and it seems Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin have made a habit of making above average chronicles of the notable and interesting, along with directing feature film Nyad which came out recently. A husband and wife team making movies and doing so to some acclaim - sounds so nice. So, why were none of the boys interviewed? That was my first question, and the answer I hunted down pertains to Netflix scooping their stories up and signing them on to some kind of exclusivity. Kudos to this filmmaking pair for making a great film while being hamstrung like that. The footage they managed to procure from the Thai Navy Seals ended up helping a lot - and what they didn't have they recreated. Added to all of that, the pacing in this is absolutely perfect. Adds up to the best telling of an already oft-told story. In a competitive industry, Elizabeth and Jimmy came out on top with The Rescue I think.

Glad to catch this one - nominated for a BAFTA for Best Documentary 2022.

Watchlist Count : 446 (-4)

Next : Blind (2014)

Thank you very much to whomever inspired me to watch Joint Security Area

I forgot the opening line.

BLIND (2014)

Directed by : Eskil Vogt

Okay, so here we are with Eskil Vogt - the guy who wrote the screenplay to such films as The Worst Person in the World (and quite a few other significant Joachim Trier movies) along with writing and directing 2021 must-see The Innocents (which I've yet to see.) Blind was his directorial debut, and features Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) - a writer who has recently become totally blind. We pretty much experience everything from the point of view of her mind - and that's not to say the screen is black or anything. It's her imagination that still fires away while her eyes fail to see what's in front of her. She sees in her dreams, and she spends much time visualizing objects. She keeps on getting the feeling that her husband is slipping into the apartment unannounced, and spying on her. Her psychological struggle is the frame through which we see everything. In other words, if we're watching her husband in the apartment, he's probably not actually there.

Ingrid introduces characters to this story free from any basis from which we can see how they relate to her. They are players who give voice to her anxieties, fears and live out in the world that she's completely retreated from. Her fear is understandable, and there are moments when you see Ingrid stumble around outside and nearly get cleaned up by a bus - which are moments that are probably part of her imagination as well. I'm slow to catch on, so as we watch these characters and situations I'm thinking, "Oookay, and this person/moment will become part of a narrative whole at some stage?" without realising what we're watching (until it's explicitly pointed out to me.) It's not all as straightforward as that, and I give the movie kudos for allowing everything time to breathe before we see everything cohere cleanly and neatly. What's important is how everything is skewed and coloured by Ingrid's psychological state.

How did I like it? There's a free easiness to Scandinavian films that's really different - whether it's sex, shyness, or a disability - there's no holding back, and an assured confidence. It's almost like I should make a psychological adjustment myself before watching one. As it is, Blind is the kind of film where I'm thinking "Okay. This is, okay" while watching it, but turning around and thinking, "That was really, really good!" when reflecting on the movie as a whole, after it's finished. This is a really scrambled movie story-wise - threads that are real and only imaginary flitter through our consciousness, and as such I figured this was much more of a mood picture. As far as providing insight though, to everything that Vogt tries and wants to express, the movie does really well and should be considered a very nice addition to that collection of films he and Joachim Trier are sending out to much acclaim. I am generally a fan of everything they've lent their intellect and filmmaking prowess to.

Glad to catch this one - winner of the Best Screenwriting Award at Sundance, 2014.

Watchlist Count : 446 (-4)

Next : The Match Factory Girl (1990)

Thank you very much to whomever inspired me to watch Blind

I forgot the opening line.


Directed by : Aki Kaurismäki

As it was the first to turn up on my watchlist, the first of Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki's films I get to see is The Match Factory Girl - and as such I'm really excited to have an entire oeuvre to rip into. This film is simple - and almost minimalist, but also one of those films where each quiet scene, and even shot, has a lot to say about it's impoverished characters and desperately lonely protagonist. It's also a very quiet movie - the various songs we hear do a lot of the talking, and after a few scenes I was wondering if it was going to be silent. A tidbit from the IMDb tells us that "Although being in nearly every scene, the protagonist does not speak until the 25-minute mark in the film." I'd argue that we learn more when a movie is like this, because as an audience watching on in anticipation - hungry for information - we pick up on every little bit of body language, composition, music, sound and detail.

Iris (Kati Outinen) works in a match factory (I bet you figured that out already) and gives most of her earnings to her distant, cold mother and stern step-father. She goes to dances in the hope of romance, but is rarely asked to partner anyone on the dance floor. Her treatment, when she does manage to become a part of someone's life, is shockingly cynical, rude and dismissive - even when she has good cause to need a sympathetic shoulder to cry on. As such, she decides on an overwhelmingly dark response to all of those who have made her life so miserably disappointing and empty. The film only goes for 69 minutes, and as such I mean it as a compliment when I say I was really wishing for more - I didn't want The Match Factory Girl to end, because Kaurismäki is a virtuoso behind the camera, and guides his performers and composes his shots to make every moment in this really stick.

I've mentioned it once already, but it's worth exploring in more detail how Kaurismäki has managed to insert diegetic songs into the film which have such a bearing on where the story is and how the characters are feeling or thinking - especially in a movie where the characters say so little to each other. I've seen filmmakers do this often enough, but not for a film's entirety like this. Anyway, one other thing to reiterate is how psyched I am now to watch all of this guy's movies. The title is a play on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale "The Little Match Girl" - another story with an impoverished, lonely girl related to unloving parents whose fate is a lonely, cold and thankless one. Kati Outinen (who Kaurismäki seems to have called on repeatedly in his films) is absolutely fantastic in her role - the movie has it's focus so intently zeroed in on her that the entire film's fate was in her hands performance-wise. It's well worth seeing - indeed, essential I think.

Glad to catch this one - included on Roger Ebert's list of "Great Movies".

Watchlist Count : 448 (-2)

Next : The Young and the Damned (Los olvidados) (1950)

Thank you very much to whomever inspired me to watch The Match Factory Girl!

* One thing I have to mention, even though it really has nothing much to do with the film per se, is how surprised I am that the brother of Iris in this (played by Silu Seppälä) isn't actually her brother in real life - because they look like identical twins. It's not really worth bringing up in the review, but I was so surprised by their likeness that I become convinced they must be brother and sister.

I forgot the opening line.

(Los olvidados)

Directed by : Luis Buñuel

"That's one less. They'll all end up like that. It would be better to kill them before they're born!"

I remember reading about Luis Buñuel's Mexican period, and he made this film smack-dab in the middle of that particular era for him. I have to say, that this is a fantastically grim piece - taking place in the poorest of poor areas where kids run wild. Where they steal what they can or else starve. Not that anyone is looked upon in too sympathetic a manner. These kids beat up old blind men, and smash their belongings while also robbing defenseless cripples, leaving them on the pavement dazed and bleeding. I guess the above quote, spoken when one of the kids is shot by police (wanted for murder) is enough of a clue as to this one's tone. The IMDb's trivia section tells us that "When it was released in Mexico in 1950, its theatrical commercial run only lasted for three days due to the enraged reactions from the press, government, and upper and middle class audiences." Wow. Some people would prefer not to see what's going on, and insist on seeing happy tales of redemption and reform, lest they feel too guilty.

If you have enough resilience to see these filthy kids (literally filthy I mean) scrape through their days, falling prey to hopeless circumstance, then you'll probably never see a film as unsparing but dignified in it's tone and purpose. Some people are worse than others, but there are no angels or devils here in the poverty-stricken slum this is set in - although the one boy who has returned from being locked up, "El Jaibo" (Roberto Cobo), has been criminalized. That's something that our modern society has been so slow to learn - how locking people up together with no thought to reform just turns them into more hardened and committed lawbreakers. El Jaibo goes on to kill the kid who ratted on him - a crime that has far-reaching consequences for a few of the gang he runs with. I was amused and gladdened though, that Buñuel still manages to insert a moment of surrealism in this when Pedro (Alfonso Mejía) has a bad dream.

This was another great film - a classic that I'm probably underrating. It's just, I'm not used to watching so many great films together, and instead of the generality of films I'm starting to rate them against each other instead. I do recognize it as something special however - this film never slackens in it's pace, keeping us a little keyed up because of the constant danger and never-ending chance that something will happen suddenly. I spotted how much of an Italian neorealist tone it had because the sun, dust and outdoor settings made me think of films like Bicycle Thieves (not to mention the gang of kids that maraud in Rome, Open City) - but I wasn't confident enough within myself to be sure of that observation. It has a lot of well-written characters, all with their own problems and kind of moral ambiguity that comes with how impossible some problems are to solve. One of those movies that really feels like it's "alive", I liked Los olvidados a great deal and think it's terrible if people protested against it. It's passionate - and withholds none of the terrible truth, awful actions and despair we all need to be aware of if we're to progress to a more egalitarian and evolved society one day in the far, far future.

Glad to catch this one - placed at #110 in the 2012 Sight & Sound critics' poll of the greatest films ever made. Ranked #2 in the list of the Best 100 Mexican films of all time according to 25 cinema critics (1994/2020)

Watchlist Count : 447 (-3)

Next : The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (Ensayo de un crimen) (1955)

Thank you very much to whomever inspired me to watch The Young and the Damned.

I forgot the opening line.

(Ensayo de un crimen)

Directed by : Luis Buñuel

The surrealism we associate with Luis Buñuel is evident in The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz - which is about a would-be murderer, the titular Archibaldo (Ernesto Alonso) whose victims all die before he gets a chance to kill them. Archibaldo, correctly I'd reckon, thinks of himself as a criminal and murderer - because if these women hadn't of died by other causes, he would have killed them. His plans were in the act of being carried out. Those in authority however, proclaim his innocence - because you can't be convicted on future intentions alone. This protagonist is wealthy and pampered, which lends him a very soft, ineffectual air, further rubbed in by the fact he's frequently rejected by many of the women he meets in the movie. Buñuel constantly snipes at the upper classes - at one stage having Archibaldo's parents complain that the bloody Mexican revolution is delaying their trip to the opera. I love the weirdness which frequently rears up out of the screen.

I remember being surprised to learn that Buñuel had made some films which weren't out-and-out surrealist, freaky features - most of the films I first watched, like The Exterminating Angel and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie were full-on. This has a definite edge to it - although most scenes play out pretty much how they would in real life. Apart from hallucinogenic moments and the bizarre and extreme coincidence that these people die when they're about to be murdered, the characters themselves drive the off-kilter properties of the film. For example, when Archibaldo fails to kill new acquaintance Lavinia (Miroslava Stern) he takes the mannequin based on her likeness and burns it in his kiln while he watches on in sadistic glee. Occasionally, during moments when our protagonist's sanity is tested, the film is accompanied by the quirky tune Archibaldo's music box makes - a childhood relic which he once believed had the power to magically kill anyone he wished, thus revealing to him the feeling of power and mastery that brings.

This movie really surprised me - it's rather twisted for a feature made during the 1950s, regardless of the fact it was made in Mexico (I hear the Mexicans wanted Buñuel to make more normal, melodramatic films.) There's a serial killer vibe I'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere during this time period. It also clearly defines a personality type I'd rarely see as well - the resentful, stunted and sexually conflicted man-child whose success in life entirely depends on the money he inherited from his parents. I wonder what audiences thought of this when they saw it! Archibaldo's obsessive desire and constant rejection would show up as features we'd see in many of the notorious killers humanity has had to confront, which makes The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz a fascinating peek into how they were perceived mid-century. The fact that he's a completely ineffectual killer brings him to an ideal state that nevertheless means he's free to walk amongst us, despite being exactly the same as the monsters who succeeded in their aims. A freaky cinematic treat, which manages to be very enjoyable despite it's ultra-dark subject material.

Glad to catch this one - I've now seen 7 of Luis Buñuel's films.

Watchlist Count : 447 (-3)

Next : Pickup on South Street (1953)

Thank you very much to whomever inspired me to watch The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz.

Sorry if I'm rude but I'm right
Pickup on South Street is one of my all-time favorites. Great story, great lead and supporting characters.
No metaphysics, no humanity, no transcendence, etc., great story yep but I require my favs to have much more than just a great story and characters. Of course Thelma Ritter is godsend but thats not enough.
Look, I'm not judging you - after all, I'm posting here myself, but maybe, just maybe, if you spent less time here and more time watching films, maybe, and I stress, maybe your taste would be of some value. Just a thought, ya know.

I forgot the opening line.


Directed by : Samuel Fuller

Looking through Samuel Fuller's filmography, I notice that I haven't seen many of his films. In fact, before this, The Big Red One looks to be it - although a lifetime ago I saw White Dog on video as a kid. Pickup on South Street is one that's very much a sharpened point of a movie. Wallet lifter Skip McCoy (Richard Widmark) picks the wrong pocket (or perhaps the right pocket) one day on the New York City Subway, ending up with a piece of microfilm that was headed towards communist information gatherers - and when it's missing both the peddlers of the info and the agents who were trying to nab them attempt to find him and shake him down. Candy (Jean Peters), whose purse was picked, tries various tricks and methods, but Skip is street smart - even the cops find it hard pinning anything on him. When Candy starts falling for Skip, the sudden danger that develops (with deadly force now on the table) leads to the Stoolie everyone has depended on, Moe (Thelma Ritter), losing her head and Candy becomes desperate to save the man she's only just fell in love with.

Skip McCoy is one of the greyest of grey characters I've seen in a 1950s film. Painted black from the outset, this sneering, arrogant and boisterous thief - who seems completely irredeemable at first - slowly melts under the intensity of Jean Peter's simmering heat. It's impossible to forget Widmark's wild performance when thinking about the film, but it was Thelma Ritter who gained another shot at glory, being nominated for a Supporting Actress Oscar (she'd be nominated for an Oscar six times, never to win.) She has such an easy presence that it's simple to understand why she was a magnet for nominations, and it's interesting to see that charisma brought to bear in a role where she's basically a crook. She gets what is probably the best scene of the film - facing death in brave but heartbreaking circumstances. Being noir, the hard edge that all of this brings is what makes each unfolding scene exciting. It's also hard to predict what's going to happen with these characters and the fast-paced storyline - I was honestly pretty surprised with how this ends, considering what I've learned about the film industry in the 50s.

So, another film noir classic during my film noir cram session - a genre that has grown on me, and one that makes sojourns back to the 1950s a rich and rewarding experience. It makes Pickup on South Street a visually interesting experience - with all it's close-ups, shadow and Widmark's leering visage - (he gets to try out a whole variety of swaggering, haughty and always amused facial expressions.) It marks an entry in the subcategory "Cold War noir", which I imagine would have been pretty divisive in the industry, considering Cold War paranoia was about to send so many great screenwriters and filmmakers into blacklisted exile. This allowed for an interesting twist on proceedings - a bunch of petty crooks become our heroes in this violent and edgy entry into a dark genre. It's a vague threat they face, but it's the redemption of our main characters which draws our focus, and the threat could have been anything to achieve the same aims. I enjoyed Pickup on South Street to the hilt anyway - it's a dark, lean straight-to-it film noir classic which I'll add to my Criterion collection.

Glad to catch this one - #224 in the Criterion collection and included in Steven Jay Schneider's 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.

Watchlist Count : 447 (-3)

Next : El Sur (1983)

Thank you very much to whomever inspired me to watch Pickup on South Street.

I forgot the opening line.

EL SUR (1983)

Directed by : Víctor Erice

El Sur would have been so much easier to talk about if I hadn't of done any extracurricular research and found out that it's basically an "unfinished" film - Víctor Erice intended the film to go for another 90 minutes, and bemoans the fact that funding was cut before he could complete the project as he envisioned it. Before finding that out, I was absolutely enchanted by this film about childhood and the painful discoveries we make about our parents not being the Gods we think they are when we're small. I'm going to have to read the novella to find out what happened when main character Estrella (Icíar Bollaín plays the teenage version) decides to travel to the south of Spain, where her father comes from - and the place he was forced to leave, leaving the love of his life behind. Estrella has a perfect kind of childhood until she discovers how unhappy her father really is, and the fact that he pines for someone other than her mother.

Taken by itself, this is a really great film - it embeds us in childhood, as the camera follows the narration we get, describing in detail childish attitudes and awakening understandings. It does end at a peculiar moment for a film to end, but I thought this was very deliberate and kind of an excellent place to finish off - with Estrella on the verge of leaving her childhood behind forever. It's another Spanish film which has their civil war looming in the background - a menace that has altered the lives of everyone there, with the added specter of General Franco - who had only died 8 years before this film was made. But the anguish is a quiet one which every character carries around with them without letting it out. It's funny how the drama that causes all of the misery is left far away - unexplored in every sense of the word. It kind of makes this all the more interesting, and perhaps would be considered an inspired choice if it hadn't of been forced on Erice by happenstance.

So yeah - I absolutely loved this film when it ended, but was deeply troubled when I found out it was an incomplete one. I wish I could forget that information. I also have Víctor Erice's The Spirit of the Beehive on my watchlist, but I think I'll get to it before I actually get up to it otherwise it'll be years before I see it. I intend to read the novella that El Sur was based on, but not without some trepidation (it might make the fact that this film is unfinished all the more evident.) I really wish Estrella's father had of just been open with her - although I can understand the reticence, because if he had of been open it might have damaged their relationship irreparably. Still - what he ended up doing was worse than that. I haven't seen too many films that capture the feeling of childhood much better than El Sur - or at least, the dark corners within which there is joy tinged with a great deal of pain when looked upon with older eyes. I hope I can come to terms with the fact that this perfect movie was meant to be much longer - and thus could possibly be accidentally brilliant.

Glad to catch this one - Criterion #927 .

Watchlist Count : 446 (-4)

Next : The Round-Up (1966)

Thank you very much to whomever inspired me to watch El Sur.

I forgot the opening line.


Directed by : Miklós Jancsó

The version of The Round-Up that I watched was really shabby - the resolution so poor that it was hard reading the subititles even. It brought me to the conclusion that it was unfair to rate it as I saw it, so I'm leaving it on my watchlist until I can find a better copy. I reckon it might have deserved a rewatch in any event - because I found the film demands some historical knowledge about what's happening. It's not about to spoon feed the viewer, and as such watching a fuzzy version of a film in which I'm lacking the requisite knowledge to know exactly what's going on is a miserable viewing experience. Not a great film to go into completely blind - but I have a feeling I might really like it the next time around. Any American website it's streaming on I cannot access, but I'll find it eventually and review it properly.

Watchlist Count : 446 (-4)

Next : Titane (2021)

I forgot the opening line.

TITANE (2021)

Directed by : Julia Ducournau

There are some films where I'm still thinking "What am I going to say about this? What did I even think of it?" as the time rolls around to say something about it. Overall, my feelings for Titane are positive though. I like body horror's capacity to make us feel this or that character's pain in a film - and that's what Titane does particularly well. No matter if it's main character Alexia's pinched discomfort hiding her breasts while pretending to be a young man, or her major agony as a metallic monstrosity grows in her womb, we really feel every bit of it through Agathe Rousselle's excellent performance and the make-up effects combined with visual effects. Because of this, and despite the fact that Alexia is a full-blown serial killer, we kind of feel for her. We see her broken in the film's opening scene when her high-strung father crashes the car while she's climbing about on the seats - having a titanium plate inserted into her skull is just the start of her physical transformation, and we notice the psychological aspect when she ignores her parents and shows physical affection to the car.

Now, Titane isn't the kind of film that will hold back when it comes to an imaginatively unreal narrative in saying what it wants to say. I mean, a car impregnates Alexia one night, just after she brutally murders one of her fans (who, of course, was asking for it.) It won't hold back as far as far as making us uncomfortable goes either (I couldn't count how many times I impored Alexia to see a doctor) - I mean, she sticks herself with rods and they come out covered in black oil as if she's just doing the rounds at a service station. There are scenes like the one where she has to break her own nose so as to fool people as to her identity. How would you break your own nose? It can't be easy - and it isn't here. I had to tell myself to let go of all the fabric scrunched in my fists when that scene ended. So - if you find that kind of thing fun then I guess you'll have a ball here, and Alexia isn't the only lost soul we'll meet. Vincent (Vincent Lindon) takes on Alexia, fooled into believing it's his long lost son, and underneath his fierce exterior is a foundering inner turmoil.

All up a pretty interesting film about human connection, love and technology/titanium steel's part in soothing our lack of deeply satisfying person to person contact. What are we becoming? Everything we touch blends into our beings - and fuses into our DNA. Titane is ferocious in it's answer and illustration of those questions, and seeks to do this using a fatally flawed, desperate survivor who seeks refuge with someone equally lost. Love can be found in the most unlikely of places. A cocoon from which something new can be born. It was the big winner at Cannes, taking home the Palme d'Or in 2021, despite it's lean towards horror. I'd say that people would be less inclined to take it really seriously the more horror that's in it (unless David Cronenberg is making it - but this is a very Cronenberg-like film.) Horror can tell us a lot though, as here. A good one this. I was consistently unaware of which direction the film was about to go in, which is something I value a lot in a movie. Lots of pain, and blood (and oil) - and lots to think about.

Glad to catch this one - Like I said, it won the Palme d'Or!

Watchlist Count : 445 (-5)

Next : Kansas City Confidential (1952)

Thank you very much to whomever inspired me to watch Titane.

Apparently I watched El Sur last year.

Who knew? Definitely not me.

And the Round Up is good. I imagine I suffered through the same bad copy you did though. I have lots of bad copies of good movies, and clearly no standards

The trick is not minding
Jancso is someone I need to ge ti to, haven’t seen any of his films yet. That’s pretty much something I can say about most of Hungary’s films, of course. Maybe soon.

I forgot the opening line.


Directed by : Phil Karlson

It all starts with Jack Elam - and I rarely get to see Jack Elam (the last time was during a Twilight Zone Hall of Fame a little over 2 years ago), so I was immediately grabbed by Kansas City Confidential. Elam plays Pete Harris - one of a four man crew who rob an armored car while it's picking up money from a bank. It's "perfect crime" stuff, with none of the three men recruited knowing each other, and all wearing masks. The patsy - our protagonist - is Joe Rolfe (John Payne), who works as a florist and drives the same florist delivery van that the robbers duplicate and use as a getaway car. That means the cops are at first sure that Rolfe, an ex-con, has something to do with the crime. By the time they figure out otherwise, Rolfe has lost his job and had his reputation smeared in all the papers. He's fuming, and makes it his life purpose to find out who framed him so he can deliver justice - and maybe, a get piece of the loot.

One of the things I liked about Kansas City Confidential was that at a certain point the game changes as a surprise reveal alters the playing field as far as whos who and what the score is. The other surprise is how capable Rolfe is and how bumbling the various crooks are compared to him - one of whom is played by a young Lee Van Cleef. Rolfe is often disarming them, much like Bogart's Sam Spade did to all and sundry in The Maltese Falcon. Shoehorned in is, of course, a love interest for Rolfe - Helen Foster (Coleen Gray) is the daughter of one of the major players, and falling for her is obviously going to complicate matters for everyone. It's rough and tumble was one of the inspirations Quentin Tarantino had for one of my favourite films of all time - Reservoir Dogs. It exudes that testosterone-fuelled "Rififi" menace, with most scenes involving some kind of deadly threat or vice one of the characters can't get enough of. You can almost smell the sweat and the metallic tang the plethora of guns everyone has is giving off.

I thought the story itself went on to tread water for the final third of the film - it spends that time building tension and gaining traction for the love interest, but I missed what was so great about the first two-thirds, which was the way the story advanced and morphed as it went. For a while nothing new is gleaned, and there's a series of confrontations and "getting to know you" moments that continue up until the climax we all know is coming. By that time however, I'd gotten a lot of enjoyment out of Kansas City Confidential, with it's gritty noir atmosphere and some powerful music by Paul Sawtell, whose exclamatory musical moments feel like gunshots and car crashes. A noir with Jack Elam in it (even playing a small part) is something I must see, especially with a film noir countdown in the offing soon. The best part of the film is the central plot point I won't mention - an excellent plan, and one which I kind of wonder hasn't been tried in real life. When the film starts it tells us it's based on a real event, but the way it does that makes you immediately suspicious of such a claim. A really cool addition to the genre of noir that's really bristly and pugnacious.

Glad to catch this one - it's in the public domain, roaming free.

I saw Dream Scenario the other day, which was also on my watchlist, so I'm doing well - getting close to that 10 ahead milestone!

Watchlist Count : 443 (-7)

Next : Scarecrow (1973)

Thank you very much to whomever inspired me to watch Kansas City Confidential.