Saturday, March 31, 2007

Man Is Not a Bird (1965)

*****
Yugoslavia

From his first feature, Dušan Makavejev established his relaxed, invigorating collage approach - take a loose frustrated love story, splash on some documentary footage, pepper it with hints of the contemporary political climate, throw in a jump cut here, a montage there and intricately composed, startlingly rich imagery all over the place.

wr/dir: Dušan Makavejev
ph: Aleksandar Petković
ed: Ljubica Nešić
m: Petar Bergamo
cast: Milena Dravić, Janez Vrhovec, Eva Ras, Stole Arandjelović, Boris Dvornik

Friday, March 30, 2007

Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)

***
USA

Part Two of Clint Eastwood's ambitious exploration of the battle of Iwo Jima, this time focusing on the Japanese perspective. It features Japanese actors speaking in the Japanese language, and the lesson is that Japanese war movie characters are as cardboard heroic as American movie characters and Japanese war movie mothers are as saintly, mute and long-suffering as American war movie mothers.

dir: Clint Eastwood
wr: Iris Yamashita, Paul Haggis
cast: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Shido Nakamura, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase, Yuki Matsuzaki, Hiroshi Watanabe, Takumi Bando

History Is Made at Night (1937)

***½
USA

Jean Arthur is a socialite undergoing a divorce to freakishly possessive Colin Clive when she falls in love with headwaiter Charles Boyer, who impersonates a thief in order to protect her, but then ends up accused of a murder committed by Clive, who blackmails Arthur and forbids her to say goodbye to Boyer, who is heartbroken and decides to travel with his star chef to America and make such exquisite food and combine it with such exquisite service that within weeks their restaurant will be the talk of the town and Arthur will be bound to come in and check out what all the fuss is about. Even within the parameters of soap opera, this one takes things to several silly, overwrought extremes. But Boyer is dashing, Arthur is radiant and the ten minutes worth of shipwrecking towards the end (spawned by some mindbending plot turns) are more moving and exciting than three hours worth of either of the various 'Titanic's.

dir: Frank Borzage
cast: Charles Boyer, Jean Arthur, Leo Carrillo, Colin Clive, Ivan Lebedeff, George Meeker

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hot Fuzz (2007)

***½
UK

What Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and their note-perfect cast did to suburban London with "Shaun of the Dead", they do to the sleepy country town with their second feature - only instead of zombie attacks, here you get sadistic serial killings. It's a thoroughly straight-faced (though thoroughly nutty) send-up of both the buddy cop action genre and the English countryside murder mystery. At least one of the several climactic showdowns is in itself a little masterpiece of surreal comedy.

dir: Edgar Wright
wr: Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright
cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Paddy Considine, Olivia Colman, Bill Bailey, Steve Coogan, Bill Nighy, Kevin Eldon, Martin Freeman, Edward Woodward, Anne Reid, Cate Blanchett

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Louisiana Story (1948)

***
USA

Robert J. Flaherty's final feature film, this semi-documentary traces the arrival of an oil derrick into an idyllic bayou populated only by a Cajun boy, his Ma and Pa and his cuddly pet raccoon.
As an opening intertitle asserts, Flaherty devoted his career to documenting "the eternal things in human life" and the necessary changes, and this picture is purportedly his portrayal of the way that industry can blend into and strengthen the harmony between Man and the land. That's right, the underlying message is that the construction of an oil rig can only improve nature. When the oil drill and the workers arrive, our wide-eyed hero greets them like a Holocaust orphan would an American soldier in a tank. The picture's producers - the Standard Oil Company - could only ever nod in earnest approval.
The general impression however, is that Flaherty isn't at all distracted by the political underpinnings of his movie. He just wants to make pretty pictures about a boy, his dinghy and his raccoon. And the pictures are indeed pretty but they lack the majesty of Flaherty's earlier work and they're somewhat muted by the relentless score (which tinkles in innocent glee every time the kid picks up his shotgun).

dir: Robert J. Flaherty
ph: Richard Leacock
cast: Joseph Boudreaux, Lionel Le Blanc, E. Bienvenu, Frank Hardy, C.P. Guedry