Cinema Penitentiary Diaries August 11-19, 2015

  1. Aloha Reviewed
  1. The Runner Reviewed
  1. Spasmo The title alone has secured this Lucio Fulci giallo an undeserved reputation. One of the many international attempts to outdo “Psycho,” the story is strange, but no stranger than Bava’s “Hatchet for a Honeymoon.” Memorable for the surreal images of murdered life-sized dolls posed in natural environments. “The River’s Edge” One of those “escape to Mexico” adventures made more perilous by sexual tension between two men who love the same girl.  On top of that, there is a saddlebag filled with stolen money and a posse in the distance.
  1. Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man Reviewed The Oklahoma Kid The Oklahoma land rush is the setting for this unusually cast Warner Brothers Western. James Cagney is the good guy with the bad past and Humphrey Bogart is his rival, a bad man with no future. Although it resembles a John Wayne cheapie from Republic, we can’t help but read it as a gangster picture in Western drag.
  1. Eyeball The original title translates as “Red Cats in a Glass Maze,” but I doubt that would fill as many Times Square seats as “Eyeball.” The most memorable aspect of this Umberto Lenzi giallo is the tour bus, which is seen as a safe place for those who experience foreign cities as nightmare landscapes rife with potential terror. Germany Year 90 Godard’s 1991 film essay uses the fall of Soviet control in East Germany as a motif in what is less a paean to a collapsed ideology than a kiss off to the Western victors. Inspired by Rossellini’s “Germany Year Zero,” which assessed the state of Germany after the fall of Nazism,  Godard doesn’t limit himself to the subject at hand, but departs from his motif to investigate the 20th Century history of a country he considers dead.  One challenge for the viewer of this one-hour masterpiece is that there is too much text to take in all the visuals and too many visuals to take in all the text. To alleviate the overload of ideas, Godard has seasoned the history lesson with a peppering of his funniest jokes. Cop Car This mess could use some tightening, but if reduced to its essentials, this picture would run less than five minutes, more than enough time to tell its story of two ten year olds who are pursued by the rogue cop whose car they have stolen. Iris  Reviewed
  1. The Cat from Outer Space Why are all the adults in these 1970’s live action Disney movies always such geeks? They are worse than the adults in the 1960’s beach movies.
  1. Footsteps on the Moon and The Fifth Cord Both are directed by Luigi Bazzoni, a second-rate Italian director with only a few features to his credit, with cinematography by Vittorio Storaro, one of the most accomplished and influential cinematographers of the 20th century. “The Fifth Cord” (1971) is a pretty average giallo, so exquisitely photographed that I had a hard time paying attention to the story.  “Footsteps on the Moon” (1975), however, is a lost masterpiece, as mysterious and compelling as “Solaris,” “Last Year at Marienbad,” and “Persona.”    I suspect Storaro is the real auteur behind these films, which leads me to believe his is the genius behind “Apocalypse Now” as well. Scars of Dracula One of the most traumatic admissions a boy who grew up at the movies in the 1950’s and 60’s must realize is the truth that Hammer Films were not really all that good.  It is a drag to sit through 96 minutes of the same old boring Dracula retreads just to watch Christopher Lee bare his fangs for 15 of them.  Southern Comfort Dumb-ass National Guardsman get themselves killed off when they mess with coon-ass Cajuns in the Louisiana swamp.
  1. 6 Years Reviewed Curse of Downer’s Grove Bella Heathcote’s acting range can be assayed through her brief spins and turns in The Killers’ video  “Shoot at the Night.”  This limited arsenal of phony expressions is extended beyond the breaking point in “Curse of Downer’s Grove,” in which she pokes out the eye of a failed rapist, initiating a teen slaughter in a small Midwestern town.  Although a framing device gives it the credentials of a horror film, the curse of the title is a hoax.  Although Bret Easton Ellis was one of the most promising young novelists of the 1980’s, film adaptions of his work have been problematic and here, where he is adapting someone else’s work to the screen, it is abysmal.
  1. The Golden Dream In this saga of teenagers immigrating on foot and on the top of trains from South America to the United States, we never explicitly witness the fates of those who don’t make it. They simply disappear from the narrative and we continue with out attention on the living, forgetting about the dead. Anti-immigrationalist bigots should see this gentle human drama about the fortitude of those following a dream, if only to get outside of their own heads for a couple of hours. Il Sorpasso Dino Rosi’s 1962 romp is one of the most maniacally enjoyable road trips you can take without leaving your couch.  Vittorio Gassman and Jean-Louis Trintignant are wonderful as the psychotic extrovert and introverted law student who raise hell on the roads leading to and from  Rome during a holiday weekend.  If wine, women, and fast cars are your style,  this movie will inspire you to get off your ass and go out and have some fun. And if you are the stay-at-home type, here is a chance to have some thrills by proxy.  Blood Simple The eighties were over-run by a preponderance of fake film noirs that ripped off the basic set-up of James Cain’s “The Postman Always Rings Twice” (violence results when a supermasculine loner sleeps with the femme fatale who is married to his swarthy immigrant boss).  Plenty of neophyte film-makers have jump-started their careers with such nonsense, and “Blood Simple”  made a notable debut for the Coen Brothers in 1984.  There are traces of original wit here, most notably the device of letting the audience in on what is happening, while the characters are the ones trying to figure out the mystery. And the acting is a full measure above the insufferable moans and sighs we endured from William Hurt and Kathleen Turner when we were subjected to their “Body Heat” (and odor) three years earlier.

2 thoughts on “Cinema Penitentiary Diaries August 11-19, 2015

  1. I had a massive library before leaving everything i owned behind when i left the states. now i am rebuilding it, bit by bit. and finding a lot of stuff i have never seen before. some i have never even heard of. i don’t stream, as i don’t like watching movies on the computer, but i have many contacts with publicists.

    Liked by 1 person

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