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July 28, 2004

Movie Update

Dear Vanessa --

* Many thanks to Lynn Sislo, who passed along a link to this interesting blog devoted to French New Wave cinema, here. I'm looking forward to catching up with Lynn's own first-class blogging too, here.

* Although I've never been a fan of the movies of John Cassavetes, I don't doubt for a sec that he's one of those landmark filmmakers whose work all filmbuffs should get to know. But I could never explain why as well as George Hunka does here.

* It's always, or at least often, fun to argue with a movielist. Here's one devoted to the 50 worst movies of the '90s. And by golly but there were some stinkers, weren't there?

* The Guardian's Neil Armstrong wonders what the hell was going on in "Donnie Darko" and "Mulholland Drive" anyway, here.

* I notice that Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers has been released on DVD. I got Turbokitty yakking about the film here. The film is an NC-17 tribute to the French New Wave, and to Paris in '68. It's not really very good, but it's sexy fun to sit through anyway. I posted a few paragraphs about the terrific Gilbert Adair novel the movie is based on here. The film is buyable here and Netflixable here. [UPDATE: Thanks to Tatyana, who points out this Alan Sullivan posting about Bertolucci here. Alan in turn links to a Newsweek interview with Bertolucci here.]

* "Not terrific but sexily pleasing anyway" pretty much sums up my reaction to the Spanish director Bigas Luna's newish Sound of the Sea too. By comparison to the playful/lyrical, Paris-bound "Dreamers," "Sea" is classical, austere-yet-luscious, and Mediterranean. It's a small-scale romantic tragedy that plays out against a rather overdone (but I loved it anyway) timeless backdrop. The film isn't short on ludicrosities, especially a doleful main character who does little but quote poetry. But though The Wife and I hit the "pause" button regularly to indulge a good giggle, we also didn't mind watching the film all the way through. It was enjoyably lulling, as well as ravishing to look at and listen to. Ah, my favorite movie genre: the arty, novella-ish story of sex, death, and poetry, peopled by beautiful, talented young performers who are often naked. Hey, it's a genre requirement. Buyable here, Netflixable here.

* You know those absurd little moviethings we moviefans grow irrationally fond of? I have one friend, for instance, who loves death scenes. She can't wait to see how a character's going to die, and how the actor is going to handle it. Another friend loves movie phone numbers -- that awkward moment in recent American films when an actor tells another actor to dial 555-something-or-other. How can they say "555" like they mean it? One of my own favorite moviethings is the way movies try to persuade you that a character is a businessperson. Since movie plots seldom want to spend any real time on business intricacies but often need businesspeople as characters, they rely on a familiar package: the suit; the bullying behavior; the cellphone, etc. "Sound of the Sea" had a businessperson moment I'll cherish. One of the main characters is a developer -- read, the bad guy. (He's not the character who's forever reciting poetry to the heroine, if you hadn't guessed.) At one point, he's sitting at a table on the luxurious porch of his gigantic businessguy house, eating a businessguy breakfast, and talking businessguy-style into his cellphone. "You make me an offer now, or I take it to the Germans!" he barks. Ah, forgive me while I wipe tears of happiness from my face. It's finally the little things that really keep us artsfans, no?

* The only film I'm looking forward to this summer is Vincent Gallo's The Brown Bunny. Not that I expect it to be any good -- lord no. I just can't wait to see what kind of spectacle Gallo (who a few years back directed the so-real-it-defines-a-new-kind-of-fake "Buffalo '66") makes of himself this time around. It doesn't hurt that the film was boo'd at Cannes, or that there's been a lot of debate about whether Chloe Sevigne really gives Gallo a blowjob in the movie or not. Gotta hand it to Gallo: he's got guts, if of a particularly annoying sort. He seems more than willing to embrace the persona of "narcissistic hippie-Christ arrogant downtown hipster you love to hate." Here's Gallo's website; here's a website for "The Brown Bunny." Here's an inspired rant from Gallo's welcome to his message board:

However, if I notice any polluted messages, which usually come from bitter, jealous, ugly, poorly-hung men, who are unhappy at work and wished their whole life to be like me, I will remove these unproductive nasty little posts and I would like to say to these twisted queers and half-men, I feel sorry for you. All I ever wanted to do was be me. I hope one day you feel the same about yourself and release yourself from the petty, small-minded urges of polluting this message board and distracting its wonderful members. So go ahead and say whatever you want nasty about me, but know that we will all know by your insults just how small your pecker really is and how miserable your life has always been and how long it's been since any girl under 500 pounds responded to your cheap lines at the local pub.

And here's the record jacket for a limited-edition CD of the movie's soundtrack. And no, it wasn't me who hit the "blur" button.

brown bunny CD.jpg

* What with webpages like this one here abounding, why would you ever bother renting that "uncut" version of a movie on DVD?

* I continue to marvel at Netflix's demented Recommendations feature, which I first blogged about here. The feature's most recent inspiration was to suggest that I rent "The Who: The Kids Are Alright." Huh? I don't like concert documentaries, and I never liked The Who. It turns out that the film was recommended to me ... based on the fact that I'd enjoyed Just Jaeckin's movie of "Story of O." Like I say: huh? What a strange viewing life I'd have if I paid the Netflix recommendations algorithm any mind.

* She's gonna go for it after all: at 46, Sharon Stone will finally be making Basic Instinct II. The Telegraph's Hugh Davis has some entertaining details about the deal and the contract here.

* Peter Weir and Jane Campion are interesting and frank about what it's like to direct movies in this piece for the Independent here.

* Has the reality-TV concept finally hit a dead end, here?

* Bush or Kerry? Puh-leeze. I'd rather give my vote to this short parody film here. (Thanks to Samizdata's David Carr, here.)



posted by Michael at July 28, 2004


Latest developments on the reality Tv front in the Netherlands - the country that gave the world Big Brother:

- there's a show planned to find the man with the healthiest sperm.

- and anothernew format is "make me a mum", in which the winner will be made pregnant.

Unfortunately, these are all the details I have. But don't say I haven't tried to imagine scenes or contests for that sperm show already.

Our Christian Democratic politicians are researching if these programs would be breaking our "Embryo law", that outlaws the exploitation of sperm and eggs for a commercial gain, though.

Posted by: ijsbrand on July 28, 2004 07:30 PM

The Kids Are Alright is a wonderful film. I am, however, at a loss to work out how anyone—even an algorithm—could recommend it to you based on your liking of The Story of O.

The "50 worst films reviewer" obviously saw a different cut of Face/Off than I did, but I like the comment about the film they wanted to leave after the opening credits. THAT is critical damnation. As for Vincent Gallo, I suppose he would know all about being bitter, jealous and ugly (I'll reserve judgement on the "poorly-hung" bit until I see The Brown Bunny).

Posted by: James Russell on July 29, 2004 02:54 AM

In the Telegraph article, Weir says:

Sometimes on a Friday night, you find yourself in a multiplex. The swirling crowds, the garish colours, the popcorn. The shrill trailers. The vulgarity of it all. And you think, "How can I make films for these people?"

How indeed, with an attitude like that.

Posted by: Morgan Stanley on July 29, 2004 07:27 AM

When Gallo was selling his camera equipment on ebay a while back ($86,800, reserve not met) he included this observation in the copy:

"All in all, Gallo put more effort into this production package than the whiny Wes Anderson, the sputtering Spike Jonze, the un-darling Darren Aronofsky have put into their whole lives."

And he may be right...

Posted by: Brian on July 29, 2004 09:33 AM

Re: Bertolucci -
as much as I liked Stealing beauty (Jeremy Irons, predictably, and not ashamed!), after Little Buddha I was debating should I bother to demand my money back?
great minds converge, apparently: see what I read recently @ Alan Sullivan about "The Dreamers".

Posted by: Tatyana on July 29, 2004 09:47 AM

Ijsbrand -- Wow, now that's a real 21st century story (and dilemma).

James -- Like I say, Gallo's got guts, at least in the sense that he's really putting it all out there. Although I've heard a rumor that he may have used a prosthesis (a "stunt dick," actually, was how it was referred to) in "Brown Bunny."

Morgan -- You've got a point, god knows. Still, how are you reacting to the multiplex scene these days? I'm still a semi-film-buff, and I do love the big screens, overstuffed chairs, and superclear sound. But I haven't been to a movie in a theater in about four months. The whole family/corporate/teen thing, the swarming kids, the fatties with their tubs of popcorn, the cellphones, the 20 minutes of ads and previews that seem meant to knock every single last IQ point out of your head ... I dunno, I don't find it as appealing as the old arthouse/grindhouse/dive movietheater scene. How are you reacting to the new theaters?

Brian -- That's a real find, thanks. Who knew that Gallo was a tech, let alone a movie history, fiend? (He bought, or claims to have bought, the superspecial if not legendary zoom lenses Kubrick used on "Barry Lyndon.") How'd you run across the Ebay page? You must be even more of a maniac websurfer than I am.

Tatyana -- So shoot me, I liked "Besieged" better than "Stealing Beauty." A funny thing about Bertolucci is how intense and distinctive his early films were, and how (relatively) blah everything since "Last Tango" has been. I remember walking out of even his lousier early films ("Partner," etc) and being struck by how much my perceptual experience had been affected -- I'd entered Bertolucci space-time. I almost never get that feeling from his films since "Last Tango." A bit from "Besieged," a bit from "The Dreamers." But it's as though he burned up 90% of his talent and vision by the time he was 35, and ever since has been treading water or trying to figure out ways to keep his interest up. I wonder if the notoriety and supersuccess of "Last Tango" played a role in this.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 29, 2004 11:38 AM

How'd you run across the Ebay page? You must be even more of a maniac websurfer than I am.

Nah. It was linked in a Kubrick forum due to the Barry Lyndon reference, and posted by a tech guy who'd been looking for equipment. Ah, the division of labor!

Did you know Gallo is a conservative Republican? (Or at least claims to be.)

I'm very much looking forward to Brown Bunny myself, providing his wiener has been left on the cutting room floor. (Ahem.) I anticipate something of a piss take at the whole Cannes/artfilm ethos, which is much needed IMO.

Posted by: Brian on July 29, 2004 01:12 PM

Well, if you're looking for businessperson short-cuts, the beginning of Cassavetes' Faces is interesting. Of course, Cassavetes was actually a good (I would argue a great director, but that's me)director, as opposed to a hack, so the comparison might not be as amusing. Anyway, before the credits of Faces, Richard Frost (played by John Marley) sauters/runs into his offices in an IBM-like uniform, literally growling and swearing at his multiple secretaries (he tells one of them that her fashion choices are ill-advised). The secretaries are somehow able to tame the beast by offering it coffee (the smirks on their faces indicate that this is a regular necesity). It goes on from there.

Posted by: burritoboy on July 29, 2004 02:03 PM

I dunno, I don't find it as appealing as the old arthouse/grindhouse/dive movietheater scene. How are you reacting to the new theaters?

I feel about them pretty much the same as you. I enjoy all the goodies -- the stadium seating, the cup holders, the surround sound -- but am defintely annoyed by the school-bus trips I always seem to end up in line with, the excruciating before-the-movie rock-station music, the non-stop advertising, etc... Then again this unending horror of teen-inspired nonsense might abate if movie-gurus like Weir got their thumbs out of their mouths and started making movies for adults again (and by "adult" I don't mean tendentious, pseudo-intellectual "art-house" flicks). Movies like "Rear Window," "The Hustler," or even "The Shining" were the kinds of pictures that appealed to a large adult audience once. That audience is still there, and someday someone's going to rediscover it and make a killing. But until then the adults in (or not in) the audience are going to continue to be written off as vulgar boobs by self-important movie directors.

Posted by: Morgan Stanley on July 30, 2004 08:55 AM

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