Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Fist in His Pocket (1965)

****
Italy

In his debut as writer-director, Marco Bellocchio conceives of a family that out-Tennesee-Williamses Tennessee Williams. Most of the four siblings are epileptic, at least half of them half-repress incestuous impulses and all of them have a blind widow of a burden for a mother. They live in an isolated, photogenically decaying villa in the Italian countryside.
Bellocchio suppresses the theatricality you'd expect to be intrinsic to his movie. He pounces on you and calmly keeps you disconcerted throughout, significantly aided as he is by Lou Castel's icy, unwavering grip on psychosis.

wr/dir: Marco Bellocchio
ph: Alberto Marrama
ed: Silvano Agosti, Anita Cacciolati
m: Ennio Morricone
pd: Gisella Longo
cast: Lou Castel, Paola Pitagora, Marino Masé, Liliana Gerace, Stefania Troglio, Jeannie McNeil, Mauro Martini, Gianni Schicchi, Alfredo Filippazzi

Madonnas (2007)

***½
Germany/Switzerland/Belgium

A raw, relentless verité account of an unstable Sandra Hüller's handling of many many movie children. Writer-director Maria Speth doesn't seem to understand that some of the faux-doco conventions and mannerisms she adopts here are becoming as transparent as things like a crack addict with a heart of gold or a tinkly piano on the soundtrack. But Hüller has a gift for obliterating any surrounding hint of artifice in the kind of role that would go to Maggie Gyllenhaal in an American remake. The children too are uncannily, uncomfortably convincing.

wr/dir: Maria Speth
cast: Sandra Hüller, Luisa Sappelt, Susanne Lothar, Coleman Swinton, Peter Moltzen, Jérémie Segard, Olivier Gourmet

Half-Nelson (2006)

***
USA

Something like 'Dead Poets Society' given the squalid indie crack-addict treatment. What sets this one above standard inspirational teacher dross however, aren't the jump cuts, the grimy lensing, the fidgety camerawork or the crack, but rather a confident, magnetic Ryan Gosling in the lead. The entire cast really, is quietly impressive.

dir: Ryan Fleck
wr: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
cast: Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps, Anthony Mackie, Monique Curnen, Deborah Rush, Jay O. Sanders, Tina Holmes

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Conformist (1970)

*****
France/Italy/West Germany

Bernardo Bertolucci's hypnotic, indelible study of a conflicted Mussolini collaborator, whose aggressive, self-suffocating efforts to blend in and remain inconspicuous repeatedly and inevitably get him mixed up in gaudily, conspicuously stylised setpieces. It's a tour de force in silky visuals (probably the pinnacle of colour cinematography) and wintry, intoxicating atmosphere.

wr/dir: Bernardo Bertolucci
ph: Vittorio Storaro
ed: Franco Arcalli
m: Georges Delerue
pd: Ferdinando Scarfiotti
cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Stefania Sandrelli, Gastone Moschin, Dominique Sanda, Enzo Tarascio, José Quaglio, Milly, Yvonne Sanson, Pierre Clémenti, Giuseppe Addobbati