Cinema Penitentiary Diaries September 1-7, 2015

  1. Tokyo Twilight Why do we keep returning to Ozu? Maybe because his movies remain alive yet are always the same.  We love that family, and like to visit them often.  We might not understand all the nuances of their society, but we understand their faces, their expressions, their smiles, and the worried ways they sometimes look at each other.  we sit in the theater and watch them sitting on the floor drinking sake and eating, avoiding topics until the moment comes when they can no longer be avoided.  And always it is the question of family, the marriages of daughters, and here, in Tokyo Twilight, the question of paternity.  Duffy Much as I loved James Coburn’s work in the seventies for Sam Peckinpah, I was never fond of his smirky, hip characters in colorful sixties pictures such as “The President’s Analyst,” and “Our Man Flint”.  So I was somewhat surprised at how much I liked him in “Duffy”, an swingingly mod caper fling from 1968 London.  Adapted from a story by Donald Cammell, the notorious occultist who would, two years later, write and co-direct the freakish masterpiece “Performance,”  Cammell’s material is a bit more unusual that the typical sixties’ caper film, with an  intelligently worked-out heist and a baffling series of twist events in the climactic scenes.   The acting is also above par, with James Fox, James Mason, and Susannah York all in exceptional form. Self/Less REVIEWED
  1. Late Autumn Most of the Ozu films that deal with the impact of a daughter’s impending marriage upon the stability of the family are focue reviewssed on the problems faced by the father. “Late Autumn” is about the impact of the girl’s marriage upon the relationship with her mother, and that abyss of loneliness that both know will envelop the older woman after the younger on has passed out of her life. In the film’s first scene, three men are discussing different men as possible suitors.  After the girl leaves the room, they talk about how pretty the girl is, but one man insists he finds the mother more beautiful.  after a bit of dissension, all three agree the mother would be their choice of wife.   I found this fascinating, as the mother was kind of funny looking compared to the conventionally appealing looks of the daughter.  but the Japanese men were not  just comparing pretty faces, but appreciating the total  attractiveness of the person, both spiritual as well as physical.  This is something not seen in Western movies, where physical appeal is the only viable attribute of a woman’s appeal.  Poise, an open-hearted smile, and concern for others don’t count for much in the land of Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga. Queen of Earth REVIEWED
  1. Horror Hospital Michael Gough has one of his best roles as a mad scientist in a mansion filled with teenage zombies upon whom he is conducting mind experiments. By some obscure reasoning, it also goes by the title “Computer Killers.” A bit of film referencing incudes the death motorcyclists from Cocteau’s “Orphee” butchering some of the guests.

Splash I am continually surprised with how good some of the comedies from the eighties actually were.  At the time, I hated them, but now they seem to have more affinity with the classic comedies of the thirties than with the general decline that marked Hollywood movies of the eighties.  Perhaps some of these pictures were desperate attempts to uphold the forgotten standards of a golden era.  They failed to great degree, but kept their head above the surrounding sludge into which the industry was sinking. Unlike some of the terrible movies from the seventies that ripped off thirties comedies, among them “What’s Up Doc,”  “The Heartbreak Kid,” and “The Boyfriend,”  eighties pictures such as “Splash,” “Back to the Future” and “Ghostbusters” boasted original sensibilities that reflected their own time without falling victim to it.  Dirty Weekend REVIEWED Eden REVIEWED


The Shape of Things After the box office failure of his second original script, Neil LaBute proved himself as a capable director of other writers’ material. Then he struck out again with another flop from his own pen.  Starring Paul Rudd and Rachel Weisz, who originated the roles onstage in London, “The Shape of Things” owed too much to David Mamet’s “Oleanna,” itself a bit of a failure, to engage a general audience with its own unique turnaround. After this, LaBute went back into the commercial norm, directing remakes of “Death at a Funeral” and “The Wicker Man,” as well as the cookie cutter thriller Lakeview Terrace, which was bad enough on paper, but really hit bottom with the idiotic performance of the over-reaching mediocrity Samuel Jackson  starring  as a black policeman who cannot bear the presence of a racially mixed couple living next door. It was years before LaBute returned to penning his own films, and 2013’s Some Velvet Morning was a return to the quality of his first two pictures, but was also his biggest box office flop.  The acting was excellent,  with Alice Eve and Stanley Tucci  displaying impeccable swordsmanship in their gender-laced advances and retreats.  The ending comes as a complete surprise, all the more satisfying for being absolutely logical.  Alice Eve returned to work again with LaBute on the recently reviewed “Dirty Weekend,” which opened in a limited release last week and did virtually no business.

  1. Jolene REVIEWED Intolerance DW Griffith’s follow-up to “Birth of a Nation” is a narrative disaster.  It might be the world’s first moving picture book, as the film does provide some compelling visual illustrations for its stuttering narrative, but the thing is just such a random mix of macaroni, ziti, lasagna, and spaghetti  that after awhile you have no idea what is on the end of the fork that Griffith is shoving into your mouth.  The random splicing of four incomplete stories into something pretending to be an epic film is awkward, irritating, and ultimately a bore.  Born on the Fourth of July Oliver Stone’s tribute to the Veterans against the Vietnam War is a sight better than Spielberg’s perniciously misogynist “Forrest Gump,” but it is pretty weak  compared to the unforgettable “Winter Soldier,” a 1972 documentary in which some thirty soldiers confess to the atrocities they committed during the course of the war.  Indiscreet The title suggests a sordid yet sentimental case of adultery in the “Brief Encounter” mode, yet Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman enjoy a much cleaner love affair than they did in Hitchcock’s putrid “Notorious.”  Stanley Donen is a classy studio director, whose attributes lie in the regions of perfection rather than imagination. He never misses a beat in this very funny and affable entertainment.
  1. We Are the Best! No you are not. You are the worst. I generally can find something to enjoy in any movie dealing with a rock bans, but this is a total washout.  The girls can’t even play their instruments!!!  I’m going to watch “Linda Linda Linda” again as soon as I can score a copy.  Now that is a good movie about an all-girl band.

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