The Sun’s Burial (Taiyô no hakaba)
Directed by Nagisa Oshima
Written by Toshiro Ishido and Nagisa Oshima
“Teenagers. Everything is so apocalyptic.” ― Kami Garcia, Beautiful Creatures
I could admire the production values even if I could not entirely figure out the plot.
We are introduced to the dregs of post-War Osaka youth and gang culture. Mostly we follow the story of Hanako, a tough young woman who is in the blood business but is open to do just about anything in the way of illicit commerce. (The blood is used to manufacture cosmetics). The various gangs also deal in prostitution and forgery. A lot of sex and violence is involved.
The “sun” in the title undoubtedly symbolizes Japan and the film takes a bleak view of both the country’s future and human nature. The main thing that struck me was how modern the film looked. It could have been a color film made maybe 30 years later in its lighting and composition. The score is fantastic. You could see that Oshima was on his way to being an auteur. Judging from most of his output (In the Realm of the Senses, etc.), I somehow doubt that I will become a fan.
Clip (no subtitles)
Orson Welles: The Paris Interview
Directed by Allan King
Allan King Associates/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet. — Orson Welles
An engaging look into the mind of a master.
In this documentary made for Canadian TV, the 45-year-old Welles talks about his career to date and philosophizes on Hollywood, acting and life.
This was the kind of interview where the interviewer tries to show how clever he is with his questions. Fortunately, the answers are always candid and to the point. Welles has the kind of voice that just makes him seem like he would be pompous. To the contrary, he is completely disarming. Recommended.
Body in the Web (Ein Toter hing im Netz; AKA Horrors of Spider Island)
Directed by Fritz Böttger
Written by Fritz Böttger, Eldon Howard and Albert G. Miller
Intercontinental Film GmbH; Rapid Film
First viewing/Amazon Prime
Gary Webster: A hammer! There must be someone on this island! A hammer… with a long handle… It must be for the purpose of excavating some sort of metal, most probably Uranium.
Recommended only for those who are interested in heaping helpings of very mild soft-core porn mixed in with some bad horror. I am in the wrong demographic.
A promoter is hiring a bevy of beautiful exotic dancers for a tour of Singapore. First we are treated to a long sequence of their auditions. Their plane crashes and the troupe washes up on a desert island. After they discover the body of a uranium prospector trapped in a huge web, the girls start competing for the attentions of the studly promoter. Various cat fights ensue. Then a couple of the prospectors horny young associates arrive. More cat fights and hanky-panky follow. All the while a very bad giant spider puppet and the promoter, who has been transformed into a spider-man, sporadically menace.
This very bad German movie was made not much worse by its complete Americanization. Dubbing and aliases protected the identities of the guilty. I watched this so you don’t have to.
Purple Noon (Plein soleil)
Directed by Rene Clement
Adapted by Rene Clement and Paul Gegauff from the novel The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Robert et Raymond Hakim/Paris Film/Paritalia/Titanus
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
Philippe Greenleaf: It seems awfully complicated. You’d be caught immediately.
Tom Ripley: Not necessarily. I might not look it, but I’ve got lots of imagination.
This excellent movie makes me want to head straight to the Italian coast. Not with Tom Ripley, obviously …
Philippe Greenleaf is a rich and self-satisfied ne’er-do-well who is on a permanent vacation in Europe. Philippe’s father hired Philippe’s “childhood friend” Tom Ripley to fetch his son back to San Francisco. Tom amuses Philippe and they are now raising hell together. It is clear right away that Tom is jealous of Philippe’s money and lifestyle. This envy is exacerbated by the fact that Philippe treats Tom the way he treats everybody else – badly.
Eventually, Philippe, Philippe’s fiancee Marge, and Tom set off for a cruise on Philippe’s yacht. Marge wants more private time and Tom learns of Philippe’s intention to eject him. This sets in motion Ripley’s elaborate plan to take Philippe’s money, girlfriend and life.
The whole film is bathed in sun but it is at bottom the darkest of film noirs. Alain Delon makes an utterly attractive and charming psychopath. I love the ironic witty dialogue throughout and the fabulous cinematography and compositions. Nino Rota’s score is another plus. Highly recommended.
I’m going to Las Vegas for a few days to see my new grand-niece. Will be back to reviewing January 29.
Never Let Go
Directed by John Guillermin
Written by Alun Falconer; story by John Guillermin and Peter de Sarigny
Julian Wintle/Leslie Parkyn Productions
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
[on developing a role for the screen] I walk around, trying different accents, feeling my way to the character. I stare at my own image in the mirror every morning, waiting for the other fellow – the man I’m going to play – to emerge and stare back at me. I am waiting for the stranger to come into my life. When it happens, I have this flush of happiness. — Peter Sellers
I saw this back at the dawn of time but didn’t remember the title. Peter Sellers’ performance in this violent film noir was unforgettable however.
Lionel Meadows runs a garage but his real business is in stolen cars. In his work, he employs a number of people including a gang of teenage hoodlums lead by Tommy Towers (Adam Faith). Meadows is outwardly quite affable but any deviation from his will is met with vicious physical violence.
John Cummings (Richard Todd) is a cosmetic salesman. He is desperate to prove himself after a number of failed efforts. His over-zealousness has made him unpopular with his customers however. He recently purchased a car in an attempt to increase his sales calls and sales. True to form, he has neglected to insure it.
Tommy steals Cummings’ car from outside his place of work. Pressure on the police does not net Cummings his vehicle so he begins his own investigation. He refuses to stop after urging by both the police and his long-suffering wife (Elizabeth Sellars). He may not survive the inevitable final confrontation with Meadows.
Peter Sellers is absolutely fantastic in a deadly serious role. I still remembered the shocking scene with the aquarium after so many years. The story itself moves at a brisk pace. John Barry wrote the jazzy score. Despite a quibble with the very end, I thoroughly enjoyed this film.
Intimidation (Aru Kyohaku)
Directed by Koreyoshi Kurehara
Written by Kyo Takigawa and Osamu Kawase
“If you want to control someone, all you have to do is to make them feel afraid.” ― Paulo Coelho
This Japanese film noir packs a lot of goodness into just 65 minutes.
As the film begins, Takita is at a party celebrating his promotion to the head office of the bank he works at. The festivities are interrupted by a private visit from a sinister figure threatening to expose the illegal loans Takita made if he does not pay 3 million yen by the day after tomorrow. The only chance Takita stands is to rob his own bank. I’m not going to spoil the rest of the story because there are a number of twists.
All the characters in this are unpleasant and Takita, whom one would normally expect to be the protagonist may be the most unpleasant of all. The story probably would not stand up to a more full length treatment but I was thoroughly entertained for the hour running time. I’m looking forward to the other Kurahara films on my list.
The Gallant Hours
Directed by Robert Montgomery
Written by Beirne Lay Jr. and Frank D. Gilroy
First viewing/Amazon Instant
Fleet Admiral William F. ‘Bull’ Halsey Jr.: Half a carrier is better than none.
Robert Montgomery was never afraid to experiment in the films he directed. Some of his experiments worked better than others.
As the film begins, it is 1945 and Admiral Bull Halsey (James Cagney) is retiring after a long career in the U.S. Navy. We segue to flashback and the story focuses on the time immediately after Halsey took command of naval operations in the South Pacific. It was then that he was instrumental in the U.S. victory on Guadalcanal against heavily superior Japanese forces.
We follow the planning and strategy for various operations, including the bombing mission that killed Japanese admiral Yamamoto. Halsey maintains a quietly decisive demeanor throughout. With Dennis Weaver as an aide.
This film features lots and lots of voice over narration that gives it a documentary-like feel. Unfortunately, it is a rather distancing device and despite all the combat involved there are few moments of excitement. Worse, the entire film is scored with choral music. It is so odd to hear angelic voices pop up at the most random moments! I read that there was a musician’s strike at the time but I can’t think of a less appropriate story for a choir. Cagney is admittedly fantastic, as usual, as the stolid admiral.
Clips – musical excerpts
Eyes Without a Face (Les yeux sans visage)
Directed by Georges Franju
Written by Pierre Gascar, Claude Sautet, Jean Redon et al from Redon’s novel
Champs-Elysees Productions/Lux Film
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
Doctor Génessier: Smile. Not too much.
“Beautiful” is not an adjective usually applied to horror movies.
Dr. Genessier (Pierre Brasseur) is a physician who experiments with tissue transplants in his off hours. Many of these are performed on the kennel of dogs he has stolen. When his reckless driving causes an accident that destroys the beautiful face of his daughter Christiane (Edith Scobe), he has a new project.
His technique actually had some success with Louise (Alida Valli). Now she is his faithful assistant and sets about kidnapping girls with Christiane’s delicate beauty for the doctor’s horrendous facial transplant surgery. In the meantime, Christiane’s simple wish is to go blind or die.
This is a horror movie without monsters or jump cuts. The shivers come mostly from the artfully graphic surgery sequences. Then there are all those enraged dogs. This is a poetic, somberly paced film. The black-and-white cinematography looks exquisite on the Criterion Blu-Ray. Recommended.
Film club trailer
Critic Mark Kermode discusses the film
Zazie dans le metro
Directed by Louis Malle
Written by Louis Malle and Jean-Paul Rappeneau from a novel by Raymond Queneau
Nouvelle Editions de Films
First viewing/Netflix rental
Uncle Gabriel: [Looking at the Eiffel Tower] I wonder why Paris is always pictured as a dame.
For me, one of the least funny things on the planet is a mean, bratty little kid. Naturally, I hated this movie.
Zazie, a 10-year-old country girl, is left with her Parisian Uncle Gabriel (Philippe Noiret) for a couple of days. Her one goal is to ride the Metro. Unfortunately, it is on strike. So instead, she smart mouths all the adults, gets into a lot of destructive mischief, and has various solo adventures.
This is basically a crazy movie about nothing so a further plot summary is unnecessary. Some continuing characters include a dirty old man, a hapless widow, a taxi driver, etc. Zazie makes life miserable for all of them.
Noiret is one of my favorite actors and Malle is high on my list of directors. I know this is supposed to be a madcap farce. When you add the personality of Zazie to a bunch of unfunny food gags, it only succeeded in irritating me. My husband hated it as well.
Criterion: Three Reasons to watch
Directed by Maurice Pialat
Written by Maurice Pialat
Les Films de la Pleiade
Some people like neat suburbs. I always am attracted to the rundown and the old and the offbeat. William S. Burroughs
This poetically depressing documentary short contrasts the squalor of post-War inner city Paris with the sterility of its suburbs.
If beauty and scathing sociological critique can occupy the same frame this film manages it. The narration tells a sad tale of millions of Parisians living without concert halls, parks, or schools on the outer fringes of the city while mindlessly working for the Man. The score is sad and beautiful as well.
Montage of stills accompanied by music from the film