Thursday, February 19, 2015

504. Andrei Rublyov/Andrei Rublev (1969)

Running Time: 205 minutes
Directed By: Andrei Tarkovsky
Written By: Andrei Konchalovsky, Andrei Tarkovsky
Main Cast: Anatoly Solonitsyn, Nikolai Grinko, Nikolai Sergeyev, Nikolai Burlyayev, Ivan Lapikov

NOTE: The title will say TARKOVSKY WEEK, but be warned that it's going to last a lot longer than a week. I'm getting five movies from Netflix now, but only two BOOK movies and with Netflix saying the post office is slowing up on the delivery of movies in 2015, it's now taking two days for me to get envelopes from them, so it's going to last a while. Be prepared for maybe one Tarkovsky film per week, for the next four weeks, with things spliced in, in between. I noticed that there were four of the BOOK movies airing on TCM in the next week, so I've set up my DVR to catch those ones. Also, my current plans have me knocking out anything that's over three hours soon, so as not to be left with it at the end. By my count, there's still seven films clocking in at 180 minutes plus, so expect those soon. Now then...


Well, my wife's jury duty thing ended up lasting all day, so I managed to get this one knocked out yesterday, all in one sitting. Let me tell you it was no easy feat tackling all 205 minutes of this in one sit down, but I managed.

To be honest, I don't even feel like plodding through a plot synopsis for this one, mainly because it's a 205 minute movie, so detailing the plot would take a while, but also because I just don't want to. If you go to Wikipedia and search the film, there's actually a really well written, super detailed plot synopsis on there, so I'd recommend going that route if you must know every in and out of this movie before watching it, but assuming you've seen the film already or else you wouldn't be reading this, let's just jump right into my thoughts, shall we?

My first impressions are that Tarkovsky is going to be a challenge for me. He's someone I want to like (at least one - come on, just one!) but actually don't think I will, no matter how hard I try. For the record, I tried REALLY hard with Andrei Rublev, but ultimately, I just couldn't settle in. I take that back, I was fine up until the "The Raid" chapter and that's where the film lost me, I think. Sure, not a lot was happening, but I was with it and it was mildly interesting. Andrei's a famous painter....Kirill is a whiny, envious brat....Danil is a little envious too, but more saintly than Kirill. But then the character's of the prince, the prince's brother, Boriska and Durochka are introduced and it all got too muddled for me. So I'm one of these guys who likes, at least a little bit, of entertainment with his films (so sue me) and this one really is 0% about entertaining and more about Tarkovsky just being a poet, a deep thinker and a tortured soul. The whole thing is apparently one big "fuck you" to the Soviet government, which sort of puts it into the category of political statement, rather than making a movie for the sake of the plot. I won't go so far as to say I hated it, but I didn't like it, that's for sure. I won't even go so far as to say the 205 minutes dragged by (it had nothing on Satantango, which took me a week to watch and was a real clock stopper!), the minutes rolled on just fine and when I'd think I should be at a certain point, I'd check the timer and I was usually pretty close, so it had that going for it. For those of you who just can't get enough Andrei Rublev, I'll leave you to it. As Woody Allen once said, this film is like doing homework (he didn't say that about Andrei Rublev in particular, but said it about certain films in general). Here's hoping Stalker (which from the stills I've seen, looks great) or Solyaris (I'm intrigued) blow this out of the water and blow me away, but I won't hold my breath.

RATING: 4/10  That's about as good as she gets and damn it people, I tried, I really did. Speaking of Woody Allen, I'm tinkering with the idea of putting up another random Woody Allen review sooner, rather than later...stay tuned.


February 19, 2015  6:52pm

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

401. Pasazerka/Passenger (1963)

Running Time: 62 minutes
Directed By: Andrzej Munk, Witold Lesiewicz
Written By: Andrzej Munk, Zofia Posmysz-Piasecka
Main Cast: Aleksandra Slaska, Anna Ciepielewska, Janusz Bylczynski, Krystyna Dubielowna, Anna Golebiowska

Note: Been watching a ton of movies lately (just not BOOK movies) and have to say it's been pretty great not HAVING to write reviews after everything I see. It's nice just watching movies for fun again, as THE BOOK has become sort of a chore lately. Some of the recent highlights in my movie watching include: Carnal Knowledge, Nightcrawler and Rififi - more on that at the end of the month.


My wife was summoned to the courthouse this morning to be a potential juror, which gave me some free time to do a BOOK movie. I had planned on watching Hearts of Darkness - the documentary about the making of Apocalypse Now, but when I put the DVD from Netflix in the player and my player started to sputter, I knew it must be cracked. I was right. So, I turned to the computer and a short one from director Andrzej Munk - a film that when unfinished before he died in a car crash, Passenger.

The film begins aboard an ocean liner, where Liza (Slaska) is traveling with her husband. When Liza notices another passenger that bears a striking resemblance to someone she used to know, she begins to recall a story she never told her husband. Turns out, Liza was once an SS overseer in the Nazi regime and the passenger that she recognized may or may not be a Nazi prisoner named Marta (Ciepielewska), whom Liza tried to take care of. We get flashbacks of the story as Liza recounts her tale to her husband, who never knew of her past. We learn that Liza wasn't a terrible Nazi, like most of her comrades and actually tried to help Marta whenever she could, choosing her as an assistant and even reconnecting Marta and her husband. The film takes place at Auschwitz and we never learn if Marta is indeed the woman on the ship or if she just resembles Marta. After Liza finished telling her story to her husband, he's sent reeling and she recalls the rest of the story by herself, where she gets a little more dastardly - meaning she may have been giving her hubby the soft version, so as not to tarnish his view of her. Like I said, the film is unfinished and it's really a shame, as if this film had a proper ending and a proper middle, it could've been a blow away picture. As it is, it's not too bad, but hard to judge since it's only a piece of a movie - a big piece, but still a piece.

It kind of makes you think about the Nazi's involved in the holocaust who weren't evil people. Surely and even Munk makes this clear too - and he was a Polish Jew who was more than likely effected by the war/the holocaust - there must have been a few real people, like Liza, who were just there to do their job and maybe, if they could, provide a helping hand when necessary. I'm not trying to be a Nazi sympathizer here, but like I said, there had to be at least one or two who weren't devils. The story here is great and I'll reiterate that I wish this could've been finished, given a proper score and all the finishing touches that Munk surely would've put in. Munk died in a head on collision with a truck and never got to finish this work. In fact, he only ever FINISHED three films and after watching this, I wouldn't be opposed to checking the others out. Casual moviegoers won't care for this, I think, mainly because it is unfinished, but a more advanced cinephile will surely fine things to praise and surely be disappointed that the film went undone.

RATING: 5.5/10  Almost a '6', but I can't even go that high. A great story, a great idea, but the short length and the missing pieces held it back from going higher.


February 18, 2015  11:05am

Sunday, February 8, 2015

460. PLAYTIME (1967)

Running Time: 123 minutes
Directed By: Jacques Tati
Written By: Jacques Legrange, Jacques Tati, Art Buchwald
Main Cast: Jacques Tati, Barbara Dennek, Jacqueline Lecomte, Valerie Camille, France Rumilly
Click here to view the trailer


Unfortunately, I have to report that my third attempt at a Tati film/a Hulot film didn't work out any better than my first two attempts. I still found this third try - Playtime - hard to swallow and while I'll admit it's probably the best looking comedy I've ever seen, it wasn't enough to win me over.

The film, like Mon Oncle, takes another look at the fascination of modernism postwar and a very gray, French world. The film is broken down into several pieces, with everything starting out in an office building, where Hulot goes for a meeting, of which I think we never learn the origin of. Hulot stumbles and staggers around the offices, trying to meet his party but something keeps separating them. Keep your eyes open during this segment, as you'll notice an obvious fascination of Tati's with geometry - or is he just trying to say that in the future, everything will have a distinct shape, a square, a rectangle of a future? The second half of the film is almost entirely Hulot free and takes place almost entirely in a restaurant, during the opening night of a upscale new eatery. I was fully willing to give this film decent enough marks until the restaurant scene began and then seemingly never ended. I kept wondering what was the point of all this and despite a hilarious gag (a glass door is shattered, yet a doorman - to give the illusion that the door is still there - continues to move the doorknob back and forth to entering and exiting patrons) it was almost totally pointless.

I started to see bits & pieces of some messages coming through, but I think the main problem is that I'm going into these thinking I'll see a comedy and not really preparing to receive messages and theories on the bleak future of France. Perhaps, if I hadn't gone in expecting strict comedy, I'd have been more receptive and been more able to pick out little jabs at postwar society. What you have here are three movies that I found very difficult to sit through (well, Mr. Hulot's Holiday wasn't that bad), yet three movies that I doubt I'll soon forget. I guess it's saying something that I can at least admit that the films are very memorable, despite boring me to tears. If there was a little more plot structured around the gags (which are kept to a minimum here, much like in Mon Oncle) and the messages, I think these would've won me over better, but as it is, I'm glad they're done. On a side note, has anyone ever gone through these films and picked out the things that Tati predicted right? The vacuum cleaner that runs itself and the gadgets that spring to life simply by waving your hand in front of them actually came true and it's kind of amazing that Tati had the foresight (or maybe just the luck) to envision such gizmos that wouldn't actually be invented for decades.

RATING: 4/10  Same rating, although I'd probably go closer to '5' for Mon Oncle in hindsight. I was hard pressed to find anybody who had anything negative to say about these movies, meaning I'm in a minority here. Oh well...won't be the last time.


February 8, 2015  5:13pm

Saturday, February 7, 2015

337. Mon Oncle/My Uncle (1958)

Running Time: 115 minutes
Directed By: Jacques Tati
Written By: Jacques Lagrange, Jean L'Hote, Jacques Tati
Main Cast: Jacques Tati, Jean-Pierre Zola, Adrienne Servantie, Alain Becourt, Lucien Fregis
Click here to view the trailer

Note: Just so everyone knows, I'm really in no hurry to finish THE BOOK. Like I said in my recap post, I'm starting to watch some other movies among THE BOOK movies, so there may be weeks at time where I watch other stuff and then slip in a few BOOK flicks. We're down to the wire now, I know I'll finish THE BOOK, so at this point I've gotten the urge to just slow it all down and take my time. That's all.


Tati/Hulot #2 went over worse than Mr. Hulot's Holiday, as Tati proves that I'm not his biggest fan, by any means. I put this one off most of the week, thanks to my lukewarm reaction to the first Hulot film and apparently, put it off for good reason.

This was very similar to the first film, except I'd say worse, less funny and with more dialogue, which wasn't needed. The film pokes a stick at consumerism and the wave of technology that apparently overtook France postwar. In this installment of the Hulot series, we meet Mr. Hulot's sister (Servantie), brother-in-law (Zola) and nephew (Becourt) - the Arpel family. The Arpel couple are very cut & paste, materialistic people, whom Gerard would rather get away from - enter Mr. Hulot, whom he looks up to. When Monsieur Arpel tries to get Hulot a job, it goes horribly wrong, as you may have guessed - as we're treated to Tati gags aplenty (which, I reiterate, just aren't as funny or as clever as the ones in the first installment of the Hulot series). It's the Arpel home which provided the most fun for me with this movie, a geometrically shaped castle, complete with fish water fountain, sensor activated front gate and garage, two large circular windows that looked more like eyes and stepping stones, which must be walked upon (never on the grass!). When I think back on this movie, I'll remember the Arpel home more than Tati and his Hulot character.

These just aren't for me and I'll keep this short & sweet again, as I won't have much too much different to say than what I've already said in my Mr. Hulot's Holiday review. Why should I care about consumerism, the modern age or the consumerist, materialistic values of the Arpel's? Is this a case of culture clash - a "you had to be there" situation, where I just don't get why this is so relevant? Sure, the film had it's moments and didn't drag by as hopelessly as maybe I made it out to, but in the end, it wasn't anything I'd necessarily want to see again and I'll certainly dread watching Playtime now. Believe it or not, this one actually made me appreciate Mr. Hulot's Holiday more, as that installment seemed to be more centered around the gags, than an actual message. Here, even though I didn't really get the message and didn't identify with Tati's stick poking at the modern age, it was still easy to see that there was indeed a message and it was going over my head. I longed for the gags of the original installment, but instead got more dialogue, more plot and less funny.

RATING: 4/10  At least, like some other BOOK movies, I don't see myself forgetting this one, which is at least something. Memorable, yet I didn't like it.


February 7, 2015  1:01pm

Monday, February 2, 2015

My Month At the Movies - JANUARY 2015

Okay, so I announced that I was going to start doing monthly recaps again in a prior post, so here we are. I'm still kind of tinkering with the exact format, so these are subject to look different for the next few months while I iron out the kinks. Thing is, I actually started getting back into movies HEAVILY in January and it all started with Letterboxd. In January 2008, for some reason, I decided to start keeping a record if every movie I'd watch. I got a composition notebook and every time I watched a movie, I'd jot down the date that I finished said movie, the title and the director. I kept the composition book for a couple of years before I got smart and just started keeping everything on an Excel spreadsheet (pens and paper are for geezers!). To this day, I still keep that spreadsheet and have since transferred the data from the notebook to Excel, so that I have up to date records of everything I've seen for the past six years. In an effort to fill out my Letterboxd account more thoroughly, a few weeks ago I decided to slowly start feeding in the data from the spreadsheet into Letterboxd, specifying the date the film was finished, plugging in my rating (only thing is I have to adjust my rating since I rate on a scale of 10 and Letterboxd only goes up to a 5 scale), adding a few tags for a more organized experience and pasting in my reviews when applicable. Yada yada yada I realized that in 2008, I watched something like 350 movies. Back then, my wife and I were working evenings (2p - 11p), so we'd get home at night, have a late dinner and then I'd usually polish off two movies before going to bed at something like 4am and doing it all again the next night. Also, if you look at the records, you could tell which days we were off, because those days would have like four or five movies recorded. Basically all we did was eat, sleep, watch movies and know (we were newlyweds - don't judge me!). Anyway, I got a little depressed when I compared the 2008 sheet to the pathetic sheet that was 2014, with only just above 150 recorded for last year. So, I made a stand to change that and not only that, I made a goal to beat the 2008 record! My wife was totally on board, I think feeling a bit of nostalgia for the days of our first apartment and our marathon movie watching habits. So during our little four day vacation, we managed to polish off quite a few flicks and have actually been watching movies in the evenings, after work too. With nearly 200 movies on our Netflix streaming queue, a plethora of free OnDemand choices, DVDs we own and haven't seen in ages and raising our Netflix delivery from three at time to five at time, we're ready to rock 'n' roll and get some movies watched.

So here's what I'm thinking: The following will be a ranked list of everything I saw in January. If there's a review, I'll put a link and if I wrote a review on Letterboxd, I'll link to that as well. What I usually did, was if I had a strong opinion about a certain movie (negative or positive) I'd write a good piece for it on Letterboxd and if not, I'd simply put up a few sentences and title it "quick thoughts". Therefore, most films will have SOMETHING attached to them. Otherwise, if there's nothing, then thems the breaks. I can't tell you how nice it was to watch movies and not feel compelled to HAVE to write something. Also, it was pretty great just picking whatever I wanted to watch, instead of having to stick to a list. Okay, enough blabbering, let's get down to brass tacks. I'll follow the ranked list with some of my favorite still from some of the flicks I watched last month, just for my own personal amusement.

1. Rocco and His Brothers (1960 - Luchino Visconti) 9/10  review
2. Cache (2005 - Michael Haneke) 8.5/10  review
3. Alien (1971 - Ridley Scott) 8.5/10  review
4. Dressed to Kill (1980 - 8.5/10  quick thoughts
5. Troll Hunter (2010 - Andre Ovredal) 8.5/10
6. The Godfather (1972 - Francis Ford Coppola) 8/10  review
7. Ran (1985 - Akira Kurosawa) 8/10  review
8. Gone Girl (2014 - David Fincher) 7.5/10  review
9. Labor Day (2013 - Jason Reitman) 7.5/10
10. The Squid and the Whale (2005 - Noah Baumbach) 7.5/10
11. Lola (1961 - Jacques Demy) 7/10  review
12. Fish Tank (2009 - Andrea Arnold) 7/10  quick thoughts
13. Insomnia (2002 - Christopher Nolan) 7/10  quick thoughts
14. Don Jon (2013 - Joseph Gordon-Levitt) 7/10  quick thoughts
15. Chinese Roulette (1976 - Rainer Werner Fassbinder) 6.5/10  quick thoughts
16. Apocalypse Now (1979 - Francis Ford Coppola) 6.5/10  review
17. The Tree of Wooden Clogs (1978 - Ermanno Olmi) 6.5/10  review
18. Basic Instinct (1992 - Paul Verhoeven) 6.5/10
19. A Time to Kill (1996 - Joel Schumacher) 6.5/10
20. The Godfather: Part II (1974 - Francis Ford Coppola) 6.5/10  review
21. Enter the Dragon (1973 - Robert Clouse) 6/10  review
22. Shaolin Master Killer (1978 - Chia-Liang Liu) 6/10  review
23. An American In Paris (1951 - Vincente Minnelli) 6/10  review
24. Twister (1996 - Jan De Bont) 6/10
25. Young and Beautiful (2013 - Francois Ozon) 6/10
26. Mr. Hulot's Holiday (1953 - Jacques Tati) 6/10  review
27. The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967 - Jacques Demy) 5.5/10  review
28. Despair (1978 - Rainer Werner Fassbinder) 5/10
29. The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976 - Nicholas Roeg) 5/10  review
30. Robocop (1987 - Paul Verhoeven) 5/10
31. The One I Love (2014 - Charlie McDowell) 4/10  review
32. The Fireman's Ball (1967 - Milos Forman) 4/10  review
33. The Outsiders (1983 - Francis Ford Coppola) 3.5/10  quick thoughts
34. Aliens (1986 - James Cameron) 3.5/10  review
35. Memories of Underdevelopment (1968 - Tomas Gutierrez Alea) 3.5/10  review
36. Shane (1953 - George Stevens) 3/10  review
37. Performance (1970 - Nicholas Roeg, Donald Cammell) 3/10  review
38. Evil Dead 2 (1987 - Sam Raimi) 2.5/10
39. W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism (1971 - Dusan Makavejev) 2/10  review
40. Black God, White Devil (1964 - Glauber Rocha) 1/10  review
41. The Music Room (1958 - Satyajit Ray) 1/10  review


Basically, the goal going into January, once I made the decision to try and top my 2008 movie watching, was just to blitz through as many movies as possible. When we started (even still) I wasn't picky AT ALL - I told my wife I was up for ANYTHING and many times, I'd just let her pick something and we'd go for it. Eventually, we decided to try and tackle R.W. Fassbinder's filmography, since we both enjoyed Fox and His Friends and Ali: Fear Eats the Soul so much, which is why Despair and Chinese Roulette were watched this month. Many more Fassbinder things were added and we hooked an HDMI cable up from our laptop to our television, so that we can try to catch some of his harder to find ones (about half of his filmography) online. Notice that the bottom half of the list is very BOOK heavy, which is why I won't be shedding any tears when I've polished off the 94 films that remain.


And now, I leave you with some of my favorite stills from my month at the movies. Enjoy!



















Sunday, February 1, 2015

264. Les Vacances de M. Hulot/Mr. Hulot's Holday (1953)

Running Time: 114 minutes
Directed By: Jacques Tati
Written By: Jacques Tati. Henri Marquet, Pierre Aubert, Jacques Lagrange
Main Cast: Jacques Tati, Nathalie Pascaud, Micheline Rolla, Valentine Camax, Louis Perrault
Click here to view the trailer


I've had Tati's Playtime sitting on my desk for well over a month now, as it became available (off of a long wait) on Netflix back then and for some reason (I can't even remember now) I wanted to hold these over until the final 100. Perhaps I wanted to stack the deck for the big race to the finish, perhaps I thought I'd really like these or something. Well, I didn't REALLY like the first installment of the Hulot franchise, but it was okay, I guess.

Honestly, there's not much of a plot to speak of, so I'll tell you what little there is to tell and we'll segue right into the review portion of this write up. Tati himself plays Mr. Hulot, a clumsy, calamity inducing, slender Frenchman who brings chaos wherever he goes, though he means well and almost never realizes that the chaos he's causing is coming from himself. In this movie, he heads to the beach for a vacation, driving his old jalopy down the road, that is until it finally falls apart on him and he ends up having to get a push start for the rest of the film, whenever he wishes to drive it. He has a good time at the beach house; playing tennis, dining with the locals, horseback riding with a dream girl and even letting off a few fireworks. The whole thing is very slapstick and if you wanna get a feel for what this one's like, just think Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, just with a smidgen of dialogue (though there isn't much and certainly nothing pertinent is said). The meat & potatoes of the film is made up of the gags and all comes from Tati's own talents of playing a half wit with anarchy on his tail.

Honestly, what sets Tati's stuff apart from say Keaton or Chaplin? If I wanted something like this, why wouldn't I just watch the film's of those gentlemen, which are easily better. Sure, this was okay and I laughed throughout (especially during Hulot's unnatural tennis serving technique), but in the end, it was a shrug of the shoulders and a *meh* from me. Do I look forward to the other two (Mon Oncle and Playtime)? Well, I don't dread them, that's for certain, so here's hoping that somehow they're better, yet I have a feeling that the original is the top of the class. Lets just keep it extremely short today and I'll let my rating say everything else that needs saying.

RATING: 6/10  Perhaps a revisit someday will brighten my mood toward this, because in actuality, I should've loved this kind of thing.


February 1, 2015  12:49pm

Sins of Omission - Entry #94: ZODIAC (2007)

Running Time: 157 minutes Directed By: David Fincher  Written By: James Vanderbilt, based on the book by Robert Graysmith Main Cast : Jake...