Friday, April 27, 2012

The Art of the Movie Poster: Claude Lelouch's A Man and a Woman

Very warm birthday wishes to the great Anouk Aimée, who turns eighty today, and thanks to Claude Lelouch for making this extraordinary film, which I will always count among my very favorites.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Moseby Confidential Files (Laura Gemser in the Seventies) El Periscopio (1979)

***A promotional shot of Laura Gemser in the seventies***

While he is primarily known as a director of horror films, with Vampyres being the most celebrated, and thrillers, the masterful Symptoms standing as his greatest work, Spanish filmmaker Jose Ramon Larraz has worked in a number of, sometimes surprising, genres including comedies. While not among his more notable films, El Periscopio, a sex-comedy from 1979 starring a lovely Laura Gemser remains a lightly perverse and fitfully funny film that is worth seeking out for fans of this iconic director, as well as its popular star.

Larraz was turning fifty years old when El Periscopio hit the European film market in 1979. Given the more provocative title And Give Us Our Daily Sex in some English language markets, El Periscopio wouldn't turn out to be a great success for Larraz but it would provide an interesting conclusion to his powerful seventies output. Sandwiched in between the relatively obscure The Golden Lady (1979) and the underrated Stigma (1980), El Periscopio is the most lightweight film Larraz ever shot, a deliberately ridiculous and goofy work centering on a teenagers obsessive peeping at two often-undressed nurses who are his neighbors. Even though it is bogged down by a series of bizarre subplots, El Periscopio ultimately succeeds as a sexy dumbed-down farce precisely because Larraz understood the type of film he was making. In other words, El Periscopio is the kind of intellectually vacant film only a very intelligent director could successfully make.

While preparing El Periscopio in 1978 Larraz handed over his story idea to none other Sergio Garrone, the writer and director of some of the most deranged and infamous Italian exploitation films of the sixties and seventies, including Kill Django...Kill First and SS Experiment Love Camp. Garrone would end up penning the final screenplay for Larraz but his work would turn out to be surprisingly soft as well. While El Periscopio is slightly seedy, and surprisingly explicit, in spots, this is a rather tame collaboration from the minds of Larraz and Garrone, a collaboration that could have proven very dangerous indeed had the two been looking to make something truly disturbing.

Exploitation fans will notice several familiar, and welcome, names on the credits of El Periscopio including composer Ubaldo Continiello (he would provide the excellent score for Lamberto Bava's terrific Macabre less than a year later) and former Pasolini cinematographer and future director Roberto Girometti, who photographed the film. In front of the camera, we have a few familiar faces as well including Gabriele Tinti and, of course, Laura Gemser.

While El Periscopio will be of interest to fans of Jose Larraz, perhaps the reason most will want to seek it out will be due to the presence of Laura Gemser. The Indonesian beauty had been working almost nonstop in the five or six years leading up to El Periscopio and she's a pleasure to watch in the film, even though Larraz doesn't ask much of her. Still, Gemser manages to be both funny and sexy and, I suspect, the role must have felt like a breeze after the globe-hopping films she had been making mostly with Joe D'Amato.

El Periscopio remains one of the more elusive films that Laura Gemser shot in the seventies. My version comes from an imported VHS English language dub that leaves a lot to be desired visually, but at least appears to be taken from an uncut print. Considering the considerable cult followings that both Laura Gemser and Jose Larraz have a proper release on disc would be most welcome.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Happy Birthday Al: My 20 Favorite Pacino Performances

Al Pacino is celebrating his 72nd birthday today so I thought a best-of list dedicated to one of Moon in the Gutter's favorite actors was due.  What a remarkable career Alfredo James Pacino has had!  Few actors in film, stage and television history have scaled the heights Pacino has in his now more than forty-year career and, with more than half a dozen projects on the horizon, he is showing no signs of stopping.  I wish Pacino very warm birthday wishes and thank him for all of the wonderful work that has meant so much to me since I first discovered him as a teenager in the mid-eighties.  Here are my twenty favorite Al Pacino performances.  Feel free to share yours in the comment section.

1.  As Frank Serpico in Serpico (1973)

"What's this for? For bein' an honest cop? Hmm? Or for being stupid enough to get shot in the face? You tell them that they can shove it."

2.  As Sonny Wortzik in Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

"I'm a fuck-up and I'm an outcast. If you get near me you're gonna get it- you're gonna get fucked over and fucked out."

3.  As Michael Corleone in The Godfather Trilogy

"Why was I so feared, and you so loved? What was it? I was no less honorable. I wanted to do good. What betrayed me? My mind? My heart? Why do I condemn myself so? I swear, on the lives of my children: Give me a chance to redeem myself, and I will sin, no more."

4.  As Benny 'Lefty' Ruggiero in Donnie Brasco (1997)

"Who the fuck am I? Who am I? I'm a, a spoke on a wheel. And so was he, and so are you."

5.  As Steve Burns in Cruising (1980)

"There's a lot you don't know about me."

6.  As Bobby Deerfield in Bobby Deerfield (1977)

"I don't wanna scream."

7.  As Francis Lionel 'Lion' Delbuchi in Scarecrow (1973)

"A crow isn't afraid of a scarecrow. It laughs."

8.  As Carlito 'Charlie' Brigante in Carlito's Way (1993)

"The dream don't come no closer by itself. We gotta run after it now."

9.  As Johnny in Frankie and Johnny (1991)

"I want to kill myself sometimes when I think that I'm the only person in the world and that part of me that feels that way is trapped inside this body, that only bumps into other bodies, without ever connecting to the only other person in the world trapped inside of them. We have to connect. We just have to."

10.  As Vincent Hanna in Heat (1995)

"All I am is what I'm going after."

11.  As Arthur Kirkland in ...And Justice for All (1979)

"You raised me. You put me through law school. You're a wonderful man, Grandpa. But your son is a shit."

12.  As Lowell Bergman in The Insider (1999)

"You'd better take a *good* look, because I'm getting two things: pissed off and curious."

13.  As Tony Montana in Scarface (1983)

"You know what capitalism is? Getting fucked!
14.  As Will Dormer in Insomnia (2002)

"You're my job. You're what I'm paid to do. You're about as mysterious to me as a blocked toilet is to a fucking plumber. Reasons for doing what you did? Who gives a fuck?"

15.  As Frank Keller in Sea of Love (1989)

"Come the wet ass hour, I'm EVERYBODY'S DADDY!"

16.  As Bobby in The Panic in Needle Park (1971)

"I was gonna marry you! You think I'd marry a whore?"

17.  As Ricky Roma in Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

"There's an absolute morality? Maybe. And then what? If you think there is, go ahead, be that thing. Bad people go to hell? I don't think so. If you think that, act that way. A hell exists on earth? Yes. I won't live in it. That's me."
18.  As Graham in The Local Stigmatic (1990)

"I never pay for sex, Ray, because Jesus Christ paid for our sins."

19.  As Tony D'Amato in Any Given Sunday (1999)

" And lately, I can't even stand the face I see in the mirror. You know, when you get old, in life, things get taken from you. I mean, that's... that's... that's a part of life."

20.  As Al Pacino in Looking for Richard (1996)

"A person has an opinion. It's only an opinion. It's never a question of right or wrong."

Thank you Al!

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Pope of Greenwich Village Soundtrack Finally Released!

Dave Grusin's marvelous unreleased score for Stuart Rosenberg's classic The Pope of Greenwich Village is finally being released as a limited edition CD from Screen Archives Entertainment, via Quartet Records!  The limited to 1,000 copies disc is now available to pre-order over at Screen Archives for fellow-fans of this wonderful film, which I count among my all-time favorites. 

The 38 track CD also contains a 20-page booklet includes featuring liner notes by Daniel Schweiger with exclusive interviews with Dave Grusin and producer Gene Kirkwood.  Thanks so much to Daniel and the folks at Screen Archives for releasing this score that I know some of us have been wanting for decades now. 

For those interested, my articles on The Pope of Greenwich Village can be found here and my Facebook group for the film is located here.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Still Looking for that Italian Dream: Gloria Guida in Mario Imperoli's Blue Jeans (1975)

Even though she was one of the most distinctive and charismatic film stars that came out of seventies Italian Cinema, Gloria Guida has never quite gained the following in the United States that she has deserved. A big part of this is due to the fact that her film work has never had the type of exposure to English-language audiences as the work of say an Edwige Fenech or Laura Antonelli. The majority of the films Guida shot throughout the seventies have simply never found a home video release on disc in America or Britain.

A key work in Gloria Guida's elusive filmography is her fourth feature, Blue Jeans, released in Europe in 1975 just about a year after Guida had been crowned Miss Teen Italy. Guida was just 18 when she shot the admittedly uneven, but mildly entertaining, Blue Jeans with director Mario Imperoli, the filmmaker who had introduced her to film audiences with the very popular Monika in 1974. Italian audiences had responded immediately to Imperoli's sexy blonde discovery and by the time she reunited with the director again for Blue Jeans, Guida already had another two hits on her resume (Silvio Amadio's La minorenne and Giuliano Biagetti's La novizia).

Absolutely perfect for the sexy comedies that Italians were flocking to throughout the seventies, Gloria Guida was one of the most charming actors that came to fame in the commedia erotica all'italiana genre. Standing in clear contrast to her darkly sensual Italian peers, Guida was all sex and sunshine and she had the absolute perfect face, figure and openness for the Sex Comedies that she became famous for. Guida was also very funny and had a wonderfully sweet quality about her that gave even her more explicit films an oddly innocent feel, and a director who absolutely recognized this special quality was Mario Imperoli.

Born in Rome in 1931, Imperoli broke into the Italian film industry in the early seventies as a producer and writer and his discovery of Gloria Guida, and the subsequent films he shot with her, would turn out to be his most noteworthy cinematic achievement. With only 8 films to his credit as a director, Imperoli would sadly pass away in 1977, Monika and Blue Jeans gained the most notoriety, mostly due to the stunning young leading lady he had introduced to the film world.

Scripted by Imperoli, along with the incredibly prolific Piero Regnoli, Blue Jeans tells the story of young Daniela 'Blue Jeans' Anselmi, a free-spirited drifter who makes her way in life by selling sexual favors and practicing petty-crime. After Daniela is arrested, and discovered to still be a minor, the man who might be her long-lost father is called into her life to look after her.

Blue Jeans is a slight film that is only fitfully funny but it is never less than compulsively watchable thanks to Guida, who appears in nearly every scene of the film (that she easily steals from all of her more experienced costars including Paolo Carlini as her bumbling father). Featuring a delightfully breezy score by the legendary Nico Fidenco and some truly gorgeous color photography by future Dario Argento cinematographer Romano Albani, Blue Jeans is finally mostly just a showcase for Guida and her considerable physical charms (Imperoli all but abandons his already thin narrative throughout the film with fetish-like closeups of Guida's long muscular legs and shapely behind). If the film is perhaps more memorable than it should be it is probably due to the peverse and violent final act that seems taken from another work entirely.

When his camera isn't ogling Gloria Guida's astonishing physique, Imperoli's direction is workmanlike and not especially stylish. Compared to say the incredible satiric comedies that the great Salvatore Samperi was making with Laura Antonelli, such as the masterful Malicious (1973), Blue Jeans feels fairly weak indeed. Perhaps the big tragedy of Gloria Guida's career is that most of the films she did make throughout the seventies survived mostly due to her presence alone, with a few notable exceptions like Fernando Di Leo's haunting To Be Twenty (1978).

Like most of her films, Blue Jeans has never been released on home video in the United States and my copy comes from a fan-subbed European import. A special cult-figure in need of a larger audience, Gloria Guida could find a major new following if some enterprising company would invest in her elusive filmography. Until then, fansubbed versions of some of her films, like Blue Jeans, can be found on the web while a few have been granted Region 1 release (with special mention going to To be Twenty and Monika). For those with all-region players, with no need for English subs or dubs, a number more are available on European disc.