Monday, September 30, 2019


Marcello Mastroianni 
in Three Lives and Only One Death

Time lost...

In Three Lives and Only One Death we deal with a distortion of time and reality. The first character played by Marcello Mastroianni (Let's call him Marcello 1) recounts to a man in a bar named Andre that he was married to the man in the bar's wife at one time. Marcello 1 says the house he lives in is inhabited  by time eating fairies and coaxes Andre to come there where he kills him and goes to Andre's house and reunites with his ex-wife as if no time had elapsed between the time he left her and the present. 

The next three tales all deal with variations of a sort of time displacement and all the stories feature Marcello Mastoianni in roles both large and small. He plays a butler, a businessman and a professor (Marcello 2, 3 and 4?). The lives of the characters in the different stories begin to intersect in interesting ways. A baby from story three is delivered to the wife in story two or the works of a mysterious writer named Carlos Casteneda is a theme. Are these characters real in the context of the movie? They meet and begin to cause havoc on each other by the end of the film.

I did like it, but if there was ever a list of movies to re-watch to get more meaning out of, Three Lives and Only One Death would be near the top.

Marcella Mazzarella as Proust
with Catherine Deneuve 
in Time Regained

and time regained...

How about a movie about Proust to follow up Three Lives and Only One Death? Time Regained is a sort of biography of Proust...sort of. We see Proust on his deathbed...and then we go back to remembrances of things past. Is what is happening happening then or is it just a dream? I hear the clock ticking. There are a lot of flashbacks here and the plot is intentionally all over the place. I don't think a straightforward biography of Proust would be appropriate anyway, so I guess this is the way to go. It doesn't make making sense of it any easier.

This might also benefit from a re-watch, but I think I'd rather just read some brief passages from Swann's Way and be done with it.

Chilean filmmaker Raul Ruiz directed both of these films. He made plenty of others if I ever feel up to the challenge!

Image result for painting about time

Wednesday, September 25, 2019


The Housemaid 1960

Kim Ki-young's 1960 The Housemaid is a film that seems quite ahead of its time with its dark tones, bleak characters and familial violence.

The plot has a piano teacher at a factory who has to struggle to make ends meet for his wife and two kids. A couple of the women at the factory develop a crush on the teacher, one of whom becomes the family housemaid and ends up having an affair with the admittedly reluctant teacher. The housemaid gets impregnated by the man and ends up controlling the whole family through blackmail. She ends up being responsible for the death of one of the children before the housemaid and the man commit suicide in front of his innocent wife. But wait...there is an afterword that repeats the first scene where the man reads to his wife a newspaper story about a housemaid that has an affair with her boss and the wife laughs it off. The man then turns to the camera and tells the audience to watch out and not let this happen to you. It may seem like a little bit of an "it was all a dream ending," but I'm guessing the filmmaker or the studio was too afraid to let the extremely dark ending play itself out without giving the audience a sign of reassurance. The film definitely reminds me of later films such as Fatal Attraction and The Hand Rocks the Cradle.

The Housemaid 2010

The 2010 version of The Housemaid was so different than the original I had to check to see if it was actually a remake. (It is so listed in the credits). This go round is clearly from the point of view of the housemaid, who gets employed into a house with a rich family this time. The husband is not a struggling piano teacher, but a rich businessman who has no qualms about using anyone how he pleases. His wife is a class A bitch (unlike the good wife of the original), whose mother is even worse than the daughter! The only sympathetic member of the family is the child who does bond with the housemaid. The housemaid does have an affair with the husband, but our sympathies are completely with her this time out. The husband does play the piano, which does give this one some link to the original. If the original had an overly comforting ending, the 2010 makes up for it with the housemaid committing suicide in front of the family in dramatic fashion. Nothing comforting about the conclusion here.

These Housemaid movies made for an interesting double feature, though I'd certainly watch the first one before deciding whether you want to delve into the remake or not.

Friday, September 20, 2019


Spooky and Sexy...a horror-romance...hints of unexplored sexuality that combine to produce a euphoria so intense it becomes transporting.-Vincent Canby, The New York Times

Picnic at Hanging Rock

The above review from Vincent Canby is about as enthusiastic a film recommendation as I have ever read from him. I would have disagreed with this assessment the first time I saw Picnic at Hanging Rock on the USA network during the 80's. You honestly have to be in the right frame of mind to appreciate this (at least I did.)
It's a true story about a group of girls that go missing on a picnic in 1900 Australia. Except, it isn't really a true story. We try to find out the mystery of what happens to them. Except it isn't a mystery. It turns time upside down, but in subtle ways. It has lots of other layers to it, including class, adolescence, sex and authority. It only took me thirty years, but I think I got it this time out.

Add from my copy of
Atlanta's  July 1979 Screening Room calendar

I didn't know what to expect from the The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, although I've heard about the film for years. I wouldn't say I was expecting a nascent version of Crocodile Dundee, but what I wasn't expecting was a late 70's down under version of Django Unchained! Jimmie is a half-aborginal, half-white who despite being raised by a proper family, seems to be thwarted at every turn by society and certainly by a series of grotesque employers. He goes over the edge and seeks out violent revenge on any that have done him wrong in the past (and some that just got in the way). Rooting for or against Jimmie and the society he rebels against is part of the conundrum here. It's up to the viewer to figure that out.

The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith

Sleeping Dogs is a down-under (New Zealand) thriller about a man named Smith (Sam Neill) who is breaking up with his wife and just wants to get away for awhile with his dog at the lake so he can relax and do some fishing. Little does he know, he's being set up to be a patsy for a revolutionary uprising. He gets arrested and put in jail and is given the ultimatum of confessing and leaving the country or being executed. He escapes on the way to give his confession and the action...well, the action sort of stops there for awhile. How many thrillers can you name where the star gets a job cutting grass at a motel half way through the picture? He actually does get involved with the resistance, ironically buddying up with the guy who is involved with his wife. He also gets involved with a local girl at the motel he is hiding at and a group of American mercenaries led by the always watchable Warren Oates.

Sleeping Dogs

Spoiler: Pretty much no one's getting out of this one alive, though we never find out what happens to Smith's loyal lake dog, last seen desperately trying to swim out to Smith in the early part of the film as he's being taken away by authorities.

Sleeping Dogs: One of these characters flanking Sam Neill 
is going to double cross him. Guess which one won't?

Revenge is also the motive for Te Wheke Utu (Revenge is what Utu means) of New Zealand director Geoff Murphy's film about a Maori captain in the British army who swears his revenge on his former allies after a massacre of a peaceful village and becomes the invading army's worst nightmare. Part Death Wish, and part Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith and maybe a little of Dances With Wolves in reverse thrown in...ah, forget the comparisons. It is a good film on its own and has some very good scenes of guerrilla warfare and magnifies once again the perils and danger for the white man in the heart of darkness...especially when you don't belong there in the first place! 

Utu plots his revenge

Sunday, September 15, 2019


Bjork in Dancer in the Dark

Dancer in the Dark is Lars von Trier's film about a Czech immigrant factory worker (Bjork) living in the United States coming to grip with the fact she is slowly losing her sight. Much of the conflict of the film involves her trying to keep her job despite this fact so she can save enough money to get an operation for her son so he won't suffer the same fate as her. At certain points in her life, she fantasizes her life in elaborate Hollywood style musical numbers (Reminding me a bit of Pennies from Heaven). This film seems to really divide people. Some love it...some despise it. I think it's a very original piece from the always interesting Von Trier. I also think Bjork gives a stunning performance in the lead role. She truly has to run the gamut of emotions here and if I had cast my 2000 Oscar vote, it would have been a toss-up between Bjork and Ellen Burstyn in Requiem for a Dream.

Also, any film that makes me suspend disbelief enough to accept the most elegant woman in film history (Catherine Deneuve) as a factory worker has that going for it.

Bjork and Deneuve toil at the factory
in Dancer in the Dark

Natalie Portman in The Black Swan

Natalie Portman actually did win an Oscar for her portrayal of a dance in The Black Swan. When I fist saw it, I asked some of my friends and family who have seen it what they think. I 'm following their comments with my comments about their comments!

My nieceIt was really strange. Not what I had in mind. Some of those images were just creepy, creepy, creepy…But I liked it. (I'm glad you seemed to have learned that creepy isn’t necessarily a bad thing when seen in an artistic context. It’s an important life lesson.)

My other niece: I thought it was the coolest move ever! But I could have done without the scene with the old man playing with himself on the subway. (I will also have nightmares about that scene.)

My cousin from GeorgiaCan’t they make any movies today without bad language? With Natalie Portman in it, I was expecting something more along the lines of Star Wars. (I may have to deduct points from you for making a reference to The Phantom Menace.)

My sonDidn’t really care for it. I prefer anime. (We’ll watch a Miyazachi movie  next, I promise)

An online friendI must be getting old. I can remember when Barbara Hershey was such a cutie! Now she’s playing parts like this as if she were doing an imitation of the mother in Carrie(I asked him what he thought of the movie overall, and he said he found it very creative, but didn’t like the scene with the old man on the subway. Note: Since it seems to be a consensus, I would ask Darren Aronofsky for his future films to omit all scenes with old men diddling with themselves.)

Movie buff friend at workAronofsky goes from a film about the psyche of washed-up professional wrestler in The Wrestler to an up and coming ballet star in The Black Swan with only mixed results.
(I asked him to embellish and he just threw up his hands and walked away from me.)

My best friendNot really my kind of flick, Sam. My old lady just insisted on watching, and seeing as it was her birthday and all, I agreed. So much dancing. So boring. But then comes the scene with the two women. You know, he, he he. When they venture to the island of lesbos? Now that’s my kind of movie! Don’t quote me on that. My old lady gets jealous, you know. (My best friend calls everyone Sam. His wife actually left him months ago, so his comments about his “old lady” concern me greatly.)

My wifeWhy do you keep talking about The Black Swan? I think you’re just obsessed with Natalie Portman. Maybe you should just off and marry Natalie Portman! But when you do, don’t forget to give her this…(My wife then broke a bottle of Michelob over my head and stuck the jagged edge of it solidly into my gut. Despite the pain, I have to admit it took me to a level of artistic consciousness that I have never attained before.)

Steve Martin in Pennies from Heaven
File under: movies I need to re-watch

Tuesday, September 10, 2019


ChalesGrodin goes overboard for Cybill Shepherd in
The Heartbreak Kid

The Heartbreak Kid (1972) is one of the few Neil Simon movies I've never seen before (I never saw the Ben Stiller version either). Charles Grodin plays Lenny, a frankly not very likable newlywed, who on his honeymoon becomes enamored by a beautiful young woman named Kelly (Cybill Shepherd). Lenny's wife is a bit irritating, but he still seems like a bit of a creep for two-timing her on their honeymoon. Eddie Albert scores some points as Kelly's father who takes an immediate dislike to Lenny. Lenny leaves his wife to pursue Kelly but is rebuffed by her and threatened by her father. At this point, I thought the movie would have Lenny going back to his wife and asking for forgiveness. That isn't what happens. He eventually wins Kelly over and even gets her begrudging father to give her away at the nuptials at the end of the movie! There are some funny moments here despite the not overly likable characters and it does have a certain early 70's charm for this viewer. The film was directed by Elaine May.

Matthau ponders whether or not to toss May overboard 
at the end of A New Leaf

Elaine May is also the writer/director/star of A New Leaf. Walter Matthau plays Henry, a spoiled rich middle-aged man who discovers he is about to run out of money. Having no marketable skills, he seeks out a rich wife to support him. Just when all hope seems lost, he comes across Henrietta (May), a rich botanist with no family left and a big inherited bank account. Henrietta is clumsy, but falls for Henry. The character of Henry is a bit of a louse, but I find it difficult to dislike Matthau here. I also find May charming, even when she's dropping plates or spilling food on herself. I liked this film a bit more than The Heartbreak Kid, so if I were going to recommend one May film, it would probably be A New Leaf.

Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty in
Elaine May's Ishtar

May later directed Ishtar in 1986, which was known for being one of the biggest bombs of  the era at the time. I actually rather liked it and it seems to be going through a bit of a reappraisal.

Fans of May may want to check out the book Improv Nation by Sam Wasson. The book talks about the early days of the art of Improv and May (along with her partner Mike Nichols) was undoubtedly one of the chief pioneers of the form.

Thursday, September 5, 2019


Young Billy studying a book he pinched from the local
bookstore in Kes

One has only to look at Ken Loach's Kes (1969) and I, Daniel Blake (2016) to speculate that he is one director that has made films with a decided sympathy for the working class. In Kes, Billy is poor, not a great student, not a great footballer, with a single mom and a bully of an older brother. He finds an outlet in raising a kestrel/falcon that he finds. It gives his life some semblance of meaning as well as a  positive outlet. I, the viewer find myself interested in Billy's life and the lives of those around him, though the future for many in his circle appear to be pretty bleak.

Young Mick and friends,
awaiting discipline and plotting revenge
in If...

A more upper class version of English public school than Kes is shown in Lindsay Anderson's surreal boarding school fantasy, If... This school ain't Tom Brown's School Days. Most of the boys appear to be non-conformists of a type, led by Mick (Malcolm McDowell). Mick's group of friends exhibit anti-social behavior at times, but at other times are the victims of upperclassmen themselves, not to mention the school administration. The final scene revolves around the school's founders day celebration which culminates in many of the students led by Mick assembling weapons and opening fire on all who have gathered. The gunfire is returned, only Mick and his group seem immune to the bullets. I'm usually interested in British films of this nature and I did find much of this provocative. However, If... may be something that I would have liked more in my twenties than in my fifties.

Malcolm McDowell returns to the role of Mick in Anderson's O Lucky Man!, which I remember as being even more offbeat than If... In fact, I had a friend who told me he took a date to see O Lucky Man! and when they left the theater, she hated it so much she began beating on him with an umbrella. "I thought she might like to see something a little off-beat," he told me. "I guess you were wrong," I said.

Helen Mirren and Malcolm McDowell
in O Lucky Man!

Young Mike with Sue,
 the object of his affection
in Deep End

In Deep End, fifteen-year-old Mike has dropped out of school altogether and is working at a bath house. He has to encounter "old" women and some men who want a little more from him than a towel and a bottle of medicated shampoo. Mike becomes friends with a pretty attendant named Sue (Jane Asher, who I'll always think of as Paul McCartney's 60's girlfriend). Sue plays along with him at first and then returns some of his flirtation. But does she go too far? Or not far enough? The boy is confused...It's tough being a teen in Britain during the 60's!...Just remember to at least play some Cat Stevens along the way and things might work out...or not.

Sunday, September 1, 2019


Evictions from Michael Moore's Roger and Me
"I'm just doing my job. Nothing personal."

Roger and Me was documentary filmmaker Michael Moore's first film. It depicts Moore's quixotic quest to interview GM president Roger Smith and get his reaction to the closing of the GM plant in Flint, Michigan. Moore is often criticized for creative editing to slant his point of view. Maybe...and he does put himself in the middle of his movies (quite a contrast to documentarians like Frederick Wiseman). However, he does let many people who you know disagree with Moore have their say and they more often than not put their foot in their mouths at best and come across as mostly lying assholes.

I say: Keep up the good work, Michael! And thanks for speaking for those who often have no one else to speak for them.

Michael Moore interviews the infamous
"Bunny skinning lady" in Roger and Me

 Klaus Barbie on trial
in Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie

Marcel Ophuls is also a documentarian who doesn't mind putting himself in the middle of his film. He is probably best know for his film about the French Resistance The Sorrow and the Pity from 1972. Hotel Terminus is his 1988 film is about infamous Nazi war criminal, Klaus Barbie. Ophuls tried to talk to just about everyone still alive at the time who knew or had anything to do with Barbie. Some of the better moments in the film are watching some of the interviewees start to squirm when they are trying to defend themselves and Ophuls is not afraid to twist the knife when they are doing so. The whole film is a lot to take in (and quite lengthy) and is anything but casual viewing. Hotel Termimus is an admirable venture and serves as a pretty important historical document.

Klaus Barbie in handcuffs
in Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie