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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

First-Time Viewings: August, 2011

Well, August turned out to be a real personal ass-kicker but I did manage to plow my way through twenty or so new and old films I hadn't seen before. The dregs of the bunch were, not surprisingly, newer films like 30 Minutes or Less (a real waste of a talented cast) and Insidious, which I was particularly disappointed with since I really enjoyed James Wan's previous films.

Among the best films I caught up with in August were a few that I wrote on here, American Grindhouse, Cat in the Bag, Claire Dolan, Blonde Ambition and Mellodrama: The Mellotron Movie. I also really found much to admire in the seventies spooker Cathy's Curse, the Madonna directed Filth and Wisdom, the early Joe Sarno work Moonlighting Wives, Sam Fuller's Pickup on South Street, the Peter Guralnick produced and written documentary Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock and Roll, Norman J. Warren's terrific Satan's Slave, James Gunn's distinctive and disturbing Super and the Tom Hardy BBC production of Wuthering Heights.

Theatrically the two best films I caught were Woody Allen's lovely Midnight in Paris and the funny and moving My Idiot Brother.

I has mixed reactions towards a handful of others but still recommend the George Hilton-Erika Blanc Euro-Western I Am Sartana, Trade Your Guns for a Coffin, Hou Hsiao-Hsien's Millennium Mambo, Michael Winner's Scorpio, a later Joe Sarno film Tigresses and Other Man-eaters and Blake Edwards' The Carey Treatment.
All in all a pretty good movie-watching month with several really great discoveries.

Pre-2011 Films:

American Grindhouse ****1/2
Cat in the Bag ****1/2
Cathy's Curse ***1/2
Claire Dolan *****
Filth and Wisdom ***1/2
I Am Sartana, Trade Your Guns for a Coffin ***
Law Abiding Citizen 1/2 *
Mellodrama: The Mellotron Movie ****1/2
Millennium Mambo ***
Moonlighting Wives ***1/2
Ondine **1/2
Pickup on South Street ****
Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock and Roll ****1/2
Satan's Slave ***1/2
Scorpio ***

Super ****
The Carey Treatment ***
Tigresses and Other Man-eaters ***
Travelling Saleslady **1/2
Wuthering Heights (2009) ***1/2

2011 Films:

30 Minutes or Less *1/2
Conan the Barbarian **1/2
Crazy, Stupid, Love ***1/2
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark **1/2
Insidious *1/2
Midnight in Paris ****1/2
Our Idiot Brother ****

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Joe Dallesandro on Film: Trash (1970)

******A series, dedicated to my wife Kelley, celebrating the legendary beauty and career of Joe Dallesandro in stills and text.***

One of the most brilliant and poetic films of the seventies, Paul Morrissey's Trash (1970) is a work that has not lost any of its considerable power in the more than forty years since it first premiered. Driven by Morrissey's trailblazing experimental direction and the dazzling performances of Joe Dallesandro and Holly Woodlawn, Trash is a masterpiece and is widely considered by most to be the greatest film of Morrissey's influential trilogy, which also included Flesh and Heat.

Filmed in under two weeks by Morrissey (mostly in the basement of his New York apartment) and a one-man crew, Trash is at once more approachable than the more visually experimental Flesh and yet more demanding. Trash is a heavier film than Flesh with an emphasis on 'heavy', as there is an exhaustion present in the film that wasn't in the earlier Morrissey-Dallesando collaborations. It's that heaviness, that world-weariness, that helps make Trash perhaps the most moving film Morrissey ever made and it has stood the test of time long after so many 'trendsetting' American films of the late sixties and early seventies have badly dated.

While Joe Dallesandro gives one of his great defining performances in Trash, the real story here is the work done by the great Holly Woodlawn, who manages to be funny, tragic and consistently brilliant in a role that was originally designed for just one scene. Legendary filmmaker George Cukor was so moved by Woodlawn's performance that he started a campaign to get a Best Actress nomination but, sadly, it wasn't meant to be. It was the Academy's major oversight though as Woodlawn's performance in the film is among the best I have ever seen.

Dallesandro and Woodlawn control Trash completely but the film does include several notable co-stars including Geri Miller (who appears in the film's incredibly sexy opening scenes), Andrea Feldman, Jane Forth and Michael Sklar. A young Sissy Spacek shot a scene for the film but was cut as Morrissey assembled the released version.

Trash garnered a lot of justified critical acclaim upon its release and it remains one of the best and most defining films of the seventies. For me persoanlly, Trash stands as one of the great examples of how truly life altering (and affirming) a film can be. We would be blessed to have more films this honest and raw in our theaters today.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Art of the Movie Poster: William Friedkin's Sorcerer (1977)

In a perfect world you could go to your shelf tonight and pull out a fully loaded Blu-ray special Edition of Sorcerer to celebrate William Friedkin's birthday, as it is one of the best films he, or anyone else for that matter, ever made. This, however, is not a perfect world...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Information on As I Am by Françoise Pascal

Our good friend here at Fascination, Françoise Pascal, is getting ready to release her much anticipated autobiography, entitled As I Am, later this year and I wanted to direct everyone to her website where you can sign up to receive information on it. Outside of being the star to one of Jean Rollin's greatest films, The Iron Rose, Françoise has had both a fascinating life on screen and off and her book is sure to be an incredible read. Register here to show your interest in the book and, if you happened to have missed it, please check out the Q&A I did with Françoise here. I can't wait to read the book and I wish Françoise all the best of luck with it!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Giant Steps: Gilles Groulx's Le chat dans le sac (1964)

A haunting and moving account of a young couple's breakup, Le chat dans le sac (Cat in the Sack) is an extremely important Canadian film, released in 1964, from director and writer Gilles Groulx. Featuring a stunning score from legendary John Coltrane (who re-recorded a handful of his most iconic songs for the film's soundtrack) and two lovely, if quite heartbreaking, performances from Claude Godbout and Barbara Ulrich, Le chat dans le sac is a Godard inspired look at one of the most difficult periods in a person's life and the consequences that come out of it.

While Le chat dans le sac announces from the beginning that it is indeed about the ending of a relationship, it is in reality much more. Canadian critic Robert Daudelin would write of the film's political undertones that Le chat dans le sac was, "a film which really belonged to us, one in which we were happy to recognize ourselves and see ourselves close up. [It] was (and remains) the image of our most recent awakenings.” Through the character of Claude, a young journalist attempting to come to terms with the idea that he might have to compromise in order to succeed, Groulx's creates a bracing portrait of youth in the sixties, and offers a look at Quebec at a pivotal point in its existence as part of Canada.

As someone mostly unfamiliar with Canadian culture and history, I thought that I might have trouble connecting with much of Le chat dans le sac but Groulx's film is universal, and anyone who has ever lived through their early twenties questioning everything around them will immediately be taken by the film. While the frustrated Claude is the center of the film. Le chat dans le sac won't just appeal to men, as Barbara is equally compelling in her portrayal of a youth obsession with art and culture. I found myself relating to both of the characters strongly, and Coltrane's powerful score reminded me of a time in my early twenties when I discovered A Love Supreme and devoured it on a daily basis like I had found some sort of answer to a question I didn't know I was asking.

Groulx was just in his mid-thirties when he wrote and shot Le chat dans le sac so his memories of what it was like to be an artist in his early twenties would have still been particularly fresh to him. The film is such an accomplished work that I was surprised to see it was Groulx's first film but there is a certain naivety, technically and thematically, to it. While the film is perhaps not perfect, Le chat dans le sac is an honorably ambitious work for a first film in the way it mixes documentary elements, with harsh realism, and an obvious love for The French and Italian New Wave. It's a poetic and, subtly, angry work punctuated by the icy, but lovely, black and white photography of Jean-Claude Labrecque and I highly recommend it for film-lovers, or anyone who ever walked around in their early twenties with their fist clenched tightly in their pockets.

A short film at just over seventy minutes, Le chat dans le sac is one of my favorite discoveries I have made in the past year or so (and I am grateful to the kind reader here who sent me a copy). The film can be viewed here for those who speak fluent French, as this version does not offer English Subtitles.

My copy thankfully had a subtitle option and I believe that version can be found here for those interested.

Moon in the Gutter (Month By Month)

BLOG CREATED, EDITED and WRITTEN BY JEREMY RICHEY: Began in DEC 2006. The written content of all posts (excepting quotes from reviews, books, other publications) COPYRIGHT JEREMY RICHEY.