Friday, September 30, 2016



Since I still had quite a few movies from the 90's left on my 1001 list, I decided to watch ten this month that I haven't seen and aren't in the mother tongue.

Open Your Eyes
If you like a movie that will keep you guessing, Open Your Eyes might make for a good nights viewing. The lead character is rich, handsome and about to embark on a relationship with the hopelessly beautiful Penelpe Cruz...until a disfiguring accident turns his world upside down. Or does it? What is actually happening here? What does it mean? It's worth finding out even if you've seen this film's remake, Vanilla Sky. I do prefer Open Your Eyes to Vanilla Sky overall, though the latter film manages to be pretty creative on its on.

Man Bites Dog

What are you doing to me, 1001 list? Man Bites Dog is a Belgian film that is a mock documentary featuring a serial killer who we go on his rounds with as he and his filmmakers provide narration as they are bumping people off! Very unpleasant to look at, but maybe the director wanted to show this guy in his environment being so matter of fact because he doesn't feel he is doing anything wrong. Did I mention this was unpleasant to look at?

And yet another movie about a serial killer is Sombre, an odd little French film about a serial killer who kills mostly prostitutes but gets involved with one woman who actually develops an interest in him. A lot of the film is intentionally dark (as in it's hard to see what's going on on the screen) and is done with a hand held camera to give it more of a documentary feeling. But could someone please explain the ending?

Rosetta is the story of a poor teenage girl who lives with an alcoholic mom. The mom is also prostituting herself to make extra money. Rosetta's obsession is getting a job that will give her needed stability for her most unstable life. Rosetta's dealings with a young man who works at a waffle stand and her manipulations in the seeking of employment make up a lot of the drama of this simple but effective film.

A Taste of Cherry
I was sorry to hear about the recent death of Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, the director of Close-Up and Through the Olive Trees. The journey of the protagonist, Mr. Badii, of A Taste of Cherry, is a slow trek by car and is a search for someone to bury him after he commits suicide. The amount of admiration one can have for Kiarostami's movies depend on whether or not you can get interested in stories that don't exactly go at a swift pace. I for one appreciated the slow moving journey in A Taste of Cherry. Mr. Badii's  journey was sad, tragic, difficult, but sometimes funny as well. It wasn't the director's final film, but it would certainly have served as a nice epitaph for him, anyway.

Farewell My Concubine
Farewell My Concubine is a Chinese epic that features politics, revolution, poverty, sexuality and opera. It's a long ride at almost three hours, but the entire movie has a wonderful attention to detail and a plot that is often sad, but is a most worthwhile story...but one that requires your full attention.

Beau Travail
Beau Travail is a French film about a French Foreign legion officer who becomes jealous of his superior's admiration for new recruit and tries to destroy the recruit in any way possible. The story is based somewhat on Herman Melville's Billy Budd. One thing about this film that you can't mistake is the underlying homosexual overtones. It isn't explicitly stated, but it is definitely there.  Okay...that's two films in a row from this list with a gay theme.

Happy Together
Make that three in a row with a gay theme! Nothing subtle in the homosexual theme of Ang Lee's The Wedding Banquet, which is about a Taiwanese man living in the United States who marries a woman to satisfy his parents even though he actually has a relationship with another man who poses as his landlord when the parents are around. A movie that successfully explores cultural differences as well as sexual differences and is a pretty engaging comedy to boot.

Happy Together
What is it about all these nineties foreign films that have a gay angle? Happy Together starts off with a sex scene between the two male protagonists. It is about the only scene of the entire movie where this off-again, on-again couple seem to get along well at all! Sparked by jealousy, misunderstandings and distinctly different personalities, their relationship is doomed from the beginning. The movie does have some nice closure at the end in a scene near a waterfall in Hong Kong. And if you are waiting for them to play the song Happy Together, you'll get your fix at the end of the movie. Does that last point qualify as a spoiler?

The Wild Reeds
The Wild Reeds is the coming of age story featuring four young people, one of which discovers he's gay (in keeping with the theme of the last few movies I've seen!) . The main drawing point of this film is that the young people in the film seem real as do their struggles and uncertainty. But watch out for the Commies!

Note: Forty 1990's films in the last four months, but I still have more from that decade to go!  Will I ever get through this flippin' list? And it's about time for the new 1001 addition to come out, so they may even add more! Oh, well...moving on...