Wednesday, March 27, 2013

MOVIE REVIEWS #59: "THE MASTER", "COSMOPOLIS", "KEEP THE LIGHTS ON", "THE WOMAN IN BLACK", "FAT KID RULES THE WORLD", "FOR GREATER GLORY: THE TRUE STORY OF CRISTIADA", and MORE!

Whew! Sorry I'm late with this blog. Well, it's been a rather busy and stressful week for me lately, but things are looking up. Finally got my Netflix back recently, so I didn't get a chance to watch as many newer films as I like to, (That's why I was late, wanted to get one more recent one in)  I apologize for that, but I did get it back, and we should be going more smoothly for the foreseeable future.

Among the good things, the LAMMY Awards are coming up. Some of you may remember that I recently joined the LAMBs, the Large Association of Movie Bloggers, there's a link to them on the right side of this blog; it's a collection group of well-known movie bloggers, and after the first nominating process, I'm happy to say that I'm eligible for seven different Awards! In promotion, I was asked to make a banner, so I can advertise my blog and possibly get more people to the blog, and of course, potentially more votes for the LAMMYS, so here's that banner!



Okay, obviously I suck at making banners. Probably one of the reasons I didn't get a mention for Best Design. Anyway, I'll try that again later I guess. Anyway, if you happen to be a member of the LAMBs, or know someone who is, the website to link to the ballot is below:

http://www.largeassmovieblogs.com/2013/03/lammy-awards-2013-nomination-voting-now-open-march-21-to-april-3.html

There you go. And, remember to vote for me. I am eligible for:
BEST BLOG (Which I should definitely win)
BEST MOVIE REVIEWER (Which, should be a cakewalk, 'cause I am clearly better than everyone else at movie reviewing, as you'll soon see, once again)
BEST NEW BLOG (I'm only eligible this one this for this one, once and there's less competition, I should definitely win this one)
BEST AWARDS COVERAGE for my OSCAR COVERAGE (I should at least be nomination for this one)
BEST FILM FESTIVAL AND CONVENTION COVERAGE  for my work covering the LAS VEGAS FILM FESTIVAL (That one would be nice, but I think it's a longshot, I should definitely gets some votes for this one.)
BEST RUNNING FEATURE for my CANON OF FILM SERIES (Well, I should easily win this, but I'm annoyed that I didn't gets any votes consideration for my "GOOD ON TV?" series, or for the OYL AWARDS for that matter. Somebody's screwing me on this one, so I need all the votes I can get.)
MOST KNOWLEDGEABLE WRITER (Well, that the thing that separate me from every other blog, my supreme knowledge of film, so, again, no reason I shouldn't win this award.)

Anyway, if somebody's willing to make me a better banner, to promote, just how great I am, go ahead. I should easily win many of these awards, if not all of them. So anyway, after I'm done with this, I'll be promoting that when I can, and hopefully with a better banner.

Anyway, enough talking, let's start walking! Onto my latest edition of my RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS!

THE MASTER (2012) Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

3 1/2 STARS



P.T. Anderson, since he began making feature films, has always been the most polarizing of directors. Few filmmakers get so much praise and equally so much criticism, for nearly every film he's done. I've been in his camp, loving all his films , especially "Boogie Nights", "Magnolia" one of my all-time favorite films, and "There Will Be Blood", all three are masterpieces and all three have their detractors. "The Master" is the first time however, where I'm legitimately wondering to myself, "What exactly is he trying to do?" Sure, you could've asked that with any of his films, but his other films, even the lesser ones like "Punch-Drunk Love" and "Hard Eight (aka Sydney)", seem to be creating characters, and giving us something new to say, or showing us a world or many worlds sometimes that are striking and definitely worth seeing, if nothing else, but for the experience of being taken on the journey that the master filmmaker leads us on. Sometimes his ideas, seemed to be jumbled together, but usually there's a purpose or theme a-brewing. The common image of "The Master", is the naked sand woman. We first see her in the beginning when Freddie Quell (Oscar-nominee Joaquin Phoenix) is humping her as a few of his fellow midshipmen are on shore leave, and building her on the sand. WWII has just ended and Quell, is suffering from, what we now call PTSD, what would've then be called "battle fatigue" or "shell shock". He's clearly problematic. He's an alcoholic, an undiagnosed sex-addict of some kind, and he's got a bad temper. After the war, he gets a job taking photos at a high-class department store, where he occasionally bangs the salesgirl, Martha (Amy Ferguson). He loses that job, and took another in California, being accused of poisoning a migrant worker with some kind of alcoholic drink, probably is poison, based on the mix and the ingredients which can be found in some bathroom sinks. That drink that is found on him, when a cruiseship spots him and takes him aboard. When he recovers to realize where he is, he interests the curiousity of Lancaster Dodd (Oscar-nominee Phillip Seymour Hoffman), aka Master. He's a man of many skills and talents, and has developed some kind of new program called "The Cause", that's somewhere between religion and cult. Lancaster likes the drink, and takes a liking to Freddie, and begins slowly teaching him the ways of The Cause, trying to save his life, supposedly. Change his way, or something along that nature. During a recall mechanisms, that's a form of hypnosis, we learn about Freddie's pre-war life in Lynn, Massachusetts, and the girl, Doris (Madison Beaty) that he's in love with, and promised to return and marry, before he started losing his way mentally. He seems to be a muse for Lancaster, who's preaching of The Cause, is starting to get more followers, and he's begun work on "Book Two" of this new mystical religion, that preaches a theory of people having numerous lifetimes and oftens people having met each other, before in earlier times and places. Lancaster's wife, Peggy (Oscar-nominee Amy Adams) is less impressed with Freddie, and while Freddie makes great strives and efforts to become with The Cause, she believes him to be a spy, or someone who isn't willing to be saved, and correctly realizes that he's in love with her daughter Elizabeth (Ambyr Childers). Although, Freddie seems to just see the world sometimes as a bunch of naked women, so that's not particularly impressive. "The Master" received three Oscar nominations, all for acting strangely enough, not a single nomination for anything else, even the technical categories, were overlooked, and the film was heavily derided by mixed reviews, as well as it's controversial story, that seems to be about the beginning of the Church of Scientology, with Dodd as an L. Ron Hubbard-type. I think a more interesting clue to the film is how on the Blu-Ray DVD, Anderson gave us a copy of John Huston's documentary, "Let There Be Light", one of the earliest films documenting the mental struggles of soldiers, after they returned home from war. The story is really Freddie Quell's and I think that disappoints us, because we're naturally more interested in the ups and downs and advancements and troubles of Dodd and "The Cause" more than anybody else. It's Quell's world however, that's a naked lady made of sand, that you can fuck and fuck and lie down beside listening to the ocean all you want, but nothing will happen, and soon she'll disintegrate. It's hard to tell, just how much, or how little The Cause helps Freddie, but the movie ends with him, in an embrace with someone real, and he repeats some of the lessons grilled into him by Dodd, and he's able to laugh and not take them so seriously. I can't quite rank "The Master" as one of Anderson's best films. It looks like one of his films, it's audacious, operatic and daring enough but I'm not quite sure what Anderson wants us to think of this material or these characters. That left the movie flat for me, normally he's so much better and giving us a clear opinion on his characters. I struggled just trying to figure out how many stars to give this film. It's not among his best, so I can't give it 5 STARS, I can't give it a straight negative review, it's too interesting and people should see it to form their own opinions. Well, maybe I could actually, but I just think that'd be pointless. I think I'll appreciate "The Master" more on multiple viewings, but it's unusual for P.T. Anderson to be so unopinionated in his own work. I could understand him doing that on purpose, but I don't think it makes it as good. This is the quintessential mixed review, but definitely see "The Master" and come up with your opinions, we'll be discussing them for years.

COSMOPOLIS (2012) Director: David Cronenberg

1 STAR



What the hell was this?! I came into "Cosmopolis" expecting to see the latest from David Cronenberg, and instead, I get-, seriously what the hell was this!? This is one of those movie, where we go from character to character, and have some kind of moral or philosophical discussion about the ways of the world, and I know that I just made this film sound like it's something interesting like one of Richard Linklater great films like "Slacker" or "Waking Life", but no, don't be fooled by that. Comparing "Cosmopolis" to those two films is like comparing the taste of caviar and horse manure. The movie takes place at some kind of future where Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) is some kind of uber-uber-uber rich stock market manipulator. He travels around town in his limo, which might as well also double for his home and office. The President is in town making travelling in Manhattan, somewhat more complicated than normal. In this limo ride, he talks with his co-workers, about him losing hundreds of millions as he bet against the yuan, right as he's betting against it. He talks occasionally about his two private elevators, and his planes which are decaying in storage because they're so rare and illegal, they can't find parts for them. He's out considering whether to buy some paintings as well. Occasionally he chases Elsie (Sarah Gordon) into a library or coffee, but her part still feels a little underwrittern, but she seems to be something he wants. He also has sex with a couple other people in the meantime, in the car, including a couple hookers. Juliette Binoche has one of the sex scenes, and that I'm always in favor of, but that falls into morose and dulldrum conversations as well. He runs into a couple anti-capitalist protests or something of that sort. Oh, by the way, this is all on the way, to Eric, just getting a haircut. "Why can't you have a barber come to your office or you car?" a friend asks. Why not, indeed? I don't know what the symbolism of the barber shop is, or all the talk about the stock market or capitalism or how insanely rich he is, or the ways of the world today. I guess "Cosmopolis" is supposed to be some kind of sci-fi parable about modern society and the future impact of Capitalism on how it's eventually gonna implode on us, as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, but Jesus, can the rich at least be interesting. Never in my life, have I ever wished for a Robin Leach voiceover than I did with this film. You can lose billions of dollars in a day, and you're biggest concern is taking a limo ride to get a haircut, be a little happy about it. The final half-hour, involves him getting shot at, and a long conversation with his attempted killer a former employee of his, Benno Levin (Paul Giamatti), and I guess they're representing the two sides of Capitalism or something or another. Cronenberg apparently wrote this in six days; I'm a huge Cronenberg fan normally, I was excited to watch this film, I'd been watching crap most of the week, but this movie barely exists. Like, it's this sort of uber-philosophical, wordy, talky, rebuttal to Ayn Rand; it doesn't even exist as that, much less work as anything. This is an anomaly, boy I hope it is. Cronenberg made the great "A Dangerous Method", last year, one of the best films from last year in fact, he's made amazing films over the years, like "Videodrome", "A History of Violence", "The Dead Zone" to name a few. This is,- egh, this is,-. Hmm. "Cosmopolis", is-, eh, I don't know what to say here. It's one of the worst films of the year, and even worse than that, it's one of the most disappointing films of the year, that's really what stings.

KEEP THE LIGHTS ON (2012) Director: Ira Sachs

4 1/2 STARS



"Keep the Lights On", has some of the cliches of a typical on-again/off-again romance, but that would be simplifying the film, trying to fit it in a genre, and frankly the film refuses to let us do that. Writer/Director Ira Sachs, says that the film is autobiographical, and I can believe that. This is the second film of his I've seen after "Married Life", which was a good overlooked dark comedy about a couple in the '50s. This one takes place in New York where Eric (Thure Lindhardt) is a documentarian making movies that nobody sees and rejects offers to work at PBS. Already, I'm think about Woody Allen's character in "Crimes and Misdemeanors," but that's me, trying to jump ahead of a story, which I shouldn't do. Through a phone sex chat line, (I guess people actually use those) he meets Paul (Zachary Booth) a young lawyer, who has a girlfriend and has similar features with longer hair. (Okay, he doesn't actually have longer hair, but I couldn't resist the Melissa Etheridge reference) Soon, they go from casual sex to a relationship that often friction-filled, and based mostly on sex. Eric has a sister Karen (Paprika Steen) who plays the part of the nagging mother for him, and a chummy gal pal, Claire (Julianne Nicholson) who's mostly a hanger-on, but has some ideas having Eric father her kid in the future. The movie jumps ahead a couple years suddenly. Eric and Paul aren't exactly still together, but they aren't exactly broken up either. Erik begins getting more acclaim and awards for his films, and Paul, falls into a world of cocaine. They occasionally run into each other, and they don't seem to have much in common anymore, but they often find themselves taking another shot at a relationship, or at least try to push their latest one-night-stand into one. I think a lot of relationships are like this, in real life. Not exactly a relationship, little more than fuck buddies, just people who occasionally, even randomly come in and out of our lives, who we care about despite knowing that it's doomed and we probably shouldn't put such emotional strength into it, but at certain times in our lives, we do, even when that person isn't around. The movie really creates this effectively, and they don't do it with a tunnel-visioned, Pinteresque lens on their relationship like one would think. No, we get glimpses, into their lives at random points, see how they change and evolve, or devolve, with each other, without each other, everything we would expect in a relationship movie, except for the happy ending, that's nowhere to be found, as it shouldn't be. "Keep the Lights On", quite surprised me, and definitely makes me want to look more deeply into Ira Sachs's filmography. So far I've the two films of his I've seen quite a bit, and they're two very different films, but both are about the struggles and complications of relationships, and he's making very good ones at that.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK (2012) Director: James Watkins

2 STARS



I can kinda understand how some people would consider film critics jaded, when we give out bad reviews sometimes, particularly to films they might like. One of the interesting, last resort refrain from this point of view in the argument, is that, "Well, you've just seen too many movies." Well, I've seen over 3400, so maybe that's too many. I'm also a screenwriter by trade, so I've studied film structure rather intently. Sometimes, you could say, that we just want to see something different. "The Woman is Black," is not that different. It's not necessarily a poorly-made or acted film, but I trudged along with the film, watched where it was going, and eventually,- well, I wasn't predicting what will happen next, too far in advance, but essentially you realize the track your on, and that it's going to a certain place you've been before, and it's not making any new detours. "The Woman in Black" begins with a London lawyer Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe, in I guess what would have to be considered his first adult, Post-Harry Potter movie role) who raises his young son on his own, after his wife dies at childbirth, has to go up to a creepy haunted house in the north of England to investigate some papers of the deceased. When he arrives in town, he's instructed by everybody not to go up there, and is shunned by nearly everyone. He finally finds a friend in Daily (Ciaran Hinds) who is not as superstitious as the townsfolk. The house is reportedly haunted by it's tenant, who died shortly after her son died, a son which never knew she was her mother because she was raised by her sister. Every time the woman in black appears, one of the village kids, dies, usually violently. The opening image of the movie, shows three creepy little girls, jumping out of a window, and all the adults throughout the film, are in grief and mourning over their child. The film is very moody. There's much time inside the house where Arthur is alone, often with bizarre objects starting to work, and the typical creepy nightmarish haunted house stuff. Reminded me a bit of one of my old professors, David Schmoeller's film, "Tourist Trap", just without the telekinesis and anthropomorphism, and the blood and slasher film stuff, of course. There are long periods of this movie, where there's almost no dialogue, especially in the house. Much of it is interesting to think about and analyze, moreso than it actually is to watch. Radcliffe, still only 23 now, he's 22 when this was filmed, still looks a little young for these kind of roles, but he's certainly a good actor for them. Janet McTeer, also shows up as Daily's wife, who's going through behavior modification put through from the grief and superstition of the house, but it doesn't seem to be working that well. There's something classical about "The Woman in Black". In fact, this is the second film based on the Susan Hill novel, the first was a popular TV movie in Britain back in '89. To me however, it's one of those films where, you might enjoy it, if you've never seen a haunted house ghost story before. However, I have, and unfortunately, it's a detriment. I saw the process of the movie, as it was going through, more than the movie itself. I won't begrudge anybody for recommending it; I guess I'm glad I watched it,  but I really can say I enjoyed watching it.

FAT KID RULES THE WORLD (2012) Director: Matthew Lillard

4 1/2 STARS




I never noticed something before about the really good-looking girls in high school, the ones that, if you happen to catch them alone, are genuinely friendly, but are always hanging around a bunch of asshole guys. I always used to think about, how could they not see that they're total dickheads that they're hanging out with, and why would they hang out with people like that. However, there was a scene in "Fat Kid Rules the World", where I realized that, it's probably only the assholes that go up and talk to them. Seriously, the smart and the shy kids, particularly the ones who aren't that good-looking wouldn't go up to her. The girl is Isabel (Lily Simmons), and in the middle of a hallway conversation with Troy (Jacob Wysocki, you might remember him from the great film "Terri"), she trips one of these friends, as he's passing in the hallway, playfully so, and then they turn and exchange a few words as he moves on. The friend she tripped, Manoj (Tyler Trerise) was an old friend of Troy's who stopped hanging out with him years ago, after Troy became more inward and started gaining weight after his mother died. Isabel turns to him, and tells Troy what a jerk he is. Yet, she's friends with him, the same way she kinda once dated or went out with Marcus (Matt O'Leary) who saves Troy's life one day, when he tried to jump in front of the bus. Marcus then tells him he's his friend, and says he needs twenty bucks, and insists he give it to him. Troy, is the fat kid, in "Fat Kid Rules the World", the first feature film directed by actor Matthew Lillard, you might know him most from playing Shaggy in the "Scooby-Doo" movies or from "Scream", I remember him from movies like "The Descendants" and "Serial Mom". Troy's fantasizes either about his death, and occasionally about sex with the cute girl in high school, with her thong sticking out of her jeans, but his real life, is a boring mix of school and multiplayer role-playing games. His father, (Billy Campbell) is a former marine, who's been grieving since his wife's death, and has been beaten down by life, although he gets along somewhat better with Troy's younger brother Dayle (Dylan Arnold), but he's otherwise struggling doing the best he can to raise his kids. Marcus is a strung-out dropout who happens to be a great guitarist, whose been kicked out of his band, and is now homeless. He decides to use Troy to bullshit his way into their house, and promises to have Troy be in his new band as their drummer, and play a major gig he's booked for five weeks from now. Marcus is an otherwise unreliable drug-addict and when he's not flipping out on stage, getting into fight with his band and/or the audience, he's getting high. He's talented as all hell on guitar, but Troy doesn't even have rhythm, much less a drumset, but he goes along anyway. He's lonely, and frankly, he needs any friend he can get. He's not like the hot girl, who gets her pick of losers who talk to her; he takes the first one that saves his life. There's so much subtlety in "Fat Kid Rules the World", and much of it is surprisingly believable. Troy occasionally has fantasies that reveals his inner thoughts, almost all of them are about the situation he's about to confront, and range from his worst fears to he wildest dreams. There really is no in-between for these kinds of troubled people. I should know. I'm not gonna say, I relate very much to Troy at this point in time, and have related to him in that past. Not always because I was fat, which has fluctuated but often because of my shyness, and struggles talking to people, and that inner anger that one's social inadequacies leads to. Jacob Wysocki and Matt O'Leary give two really good performances here, as troubled teenagers who end up together helping each other out, even when neither one of them really wants the help. "Fat Kid Rules the World" is a surprisingly touching and heartwarming tale, that never has an off-beat. It balances it's tightrope really well. None of this feels artificial. It doesn't go overly-emotional, no character takes to unbelievable a leap or a change, even the parties and gigs, seems like the way they'd occur. The movie's based on a novel by K.L Going and the screenplay by Melvin M.B. Galvina and Peter Speakman, is the surprising star of this film. This could've gone wrong in a million different ways, but it's too smart to do it. I'm always skeptical of high school films, too many of them feel false to me, but this one, feels like it gets it all right.

FOR GREATER GLORY: THE TRUE STORY OF CRISTIADA (2012) Director: Dean Wright

1/2 STAR



The Cristeros War or, La Cristiada, took place from 1926-29, and was a rebellion of Mexican President and Atheist Plutarco Elias Callas, to persecute the Roman Catholic church. It was the largest rebellion in Mexican history, and many of the gunrunners of the war, including many women, have been canonized as Saints by the Catholic Church. In case you're wondering where I'm getting this information, it's from wikipedia. The reason I'm going to wikipedia, is that I've been staring at my blank computer screen for over an hour and a half, and couldn't remember a single detail of this movie, other than it took place in Mexico, there was a big epic, long drawn-out Civil War of some kind, and the movie starred mustaches where occasionally you'd recognize Andy Garcia behind them. If you learned anything from "For Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristiada", God bless you, but this movie felt like the Hallmark Channel was trying to make a David Lean-style epic. Everything is sweeping and important and grand and big and mustachy, but my god, I can't remember the last time a war movie left so little of an impression on me. This movie is long, way over two hours, and in the middle of all this, there's some kind of family melodrama going on. There was some title cards at the beginning, describing the events, but I forgot what they wrote after two hours, but I remember thinking as I read them, that they were really good title cards. You, know, you may think, I'm embellishing this, or being lazy, but I dare people to watch this movie, and remember something significant from it. I sat there watching it, and couldn't remember anything, even as it was happening. Now, I don't know how accurate or inaccruate it was, but I dare anybody to have learned anything significant about the Cristeros War from watching this film. You can watch this film, connected to an I.V. full of Starbucks, and your eyes peeled open like Alex in "A Clockwork Orange, and you'd still fall asleep through this movie. Or at least, drift off while awake, into some imaginary land, a happy place, or you know, think about what you need to buy at the grocery store that day. "For Greater Glory" is ambitious, and well-intended, but "For Greater Glory" is every bad, cliched war movie ever, all shoved together. It was the first film directed by Dean Wright, who's mostly known as a visual effects artists; he even has an Oscar nomination for his work in "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe", I think he should stay in special effects. There's gotta be a good story, true untrue about this forgotten piece of history, but this is not it.

BOB LE FLAMBEUR (1959) Director: Jean-Pierre Melville

3 STARS



"Bob le Flambeur" or "Bob the Gambler", (Roger Duchesne) is another in these long line of hard-boiled Melville characters, like Maurice in "Le Doulos" or my favorite, the assassin Jeff Costello, in "Le Samourai". "Bob..." was the first of these characters however, and it was Melville's first feature film, and in many ways, it's outdoor location shooting, it's story of a loser in life, and it's little toying with genre, many might rank it as the first French New Wave film. Despite the American release date I wrote, the movie was made in '54, so it does predate Truffaut's "The 400 Blows" by five years, so their is a decent claim, I'd say. I'd say, however, that it's Melville's least successful film of his, among the ones I've seen anyway. That doesn't mean it's not good, it is. In fact, it was good enough for a recent American remake, "The Good Thief" with Nick Nolte. As I said, Bob is an old-time criminal. He's legendary when he walks into a bar, and talks with some of the other old-timers, but he's spends all his money gambling, and lives in a run-down little hole of an apartment. Once upon a time, he lent money to Yvonne (Simone Paris) to help her buy her bar, which he frequents along with other criminals and some friendly police. He's been out of the crime game, since before the war, but after he befriends Anne, (Isabelle Corey) a young teenager who's falls under the spell of Marc (Gerard Buhr) a local pimp, it helps spring Bob back for one more heist, this one involving, robbing a casino. "Bob le Flambeur" is one of the original heist movies with a twist ending, in fact it mgiht be the original one come to think of it. Yet, the movie ends with Bob, after the botched robbery, wasting away, and betting big at the very casino he was robbing. He isn't a crook so much as a gambler, and that's his real love. As I said, I didn't find this as intriguing as Melville's other films like "Army of Darkness" or "Le Samourai", but you can see the seeds of those really memorable films being born here. It didn't really catch on for me however, I think my problem were the inconsistent tone. Melville is usually intense and here, it more downtrodden and false; the movie never felt truly entertaining for me, even though I gave it a few tries to see it all the way through. Love Melville, but while I admire and respect "Bob le Flambeur," I consider it overrated.

F FOR FAKE (1973) Director: Orson Welles

5 STARS



I have a confession to make: I am a liar! Me, David Baruffi, am a fraud. A fake, a liar! All artists are. In order to create and tell a story, we lie.  Creation, is itself, a form or lying. When I write a script, I start with a lie. A make up a character who doesn't exist, and tell stories that never happened, give you emotions that aren't real. If any artist, of any kind tells you otherwise, they're lying to you. This is the indisputable truth that makes "F for Fake", so interesting to me, and it's subject matter, so interesting for Orson Welles. This free-form pseudo-documentary was one of his last films; it didn't get much of a proper American release at the time, like most Welles film didn't, but now, it reveals itself as a playful little addition to the master's canon. It combines footage from an actual documentary, as well as some footage Welles added and shot himself, and begins by telling the story of Elmyr de Hory, who's renowned for being the greatest art forger in history. His paintings have fooled the experts at many of the world's most famous museums. Many of them. His paintings probably line the halls of the Louvre right now, at least the way he's described here, and describes himself. The movies jumps between footage of him  and his life in Ibiza, where he doesn't admit to forging paintings, per se, but everyone knows, and he's admired by many for this skill, almost if not moreso, than the real paintings of Picassos and Modigliani's. Welles ferociously cuts and jump cuts, and double backs through the film, often from the editing room where he's cutting and recutting the film, many times out in the street performing a magic act. Among Elmyr's admirers, is an even more interesting figure, Clifford Irving, his biographer. He became well-known during the shoot of the documentary for a more-famous biography he wrote, the fake one about Howard Hughes, where he successfully convinced many that he had access to the notorious recluse, so much so, that it cause Hughes to speak on the phone, and deny him to the media, something he rarely did late in life. (There's a good movie starring Richard Gere on Irving called "The Hoax" that also documents this story) Welles, reflects on his lies, on himself. The film recreates Welles's first world-reknowned lie, his radio production of "War of the Worlds", which was down in the form of an actual news broadcast causing mass hysteria across the world. One man in South America did a remake afterwards and was thrown in jail for it. He made up a martian invasion, and irony of all ironies, when Welles was originally conceiving of "Citizen Kane", instead of basing it on William Randolph Hearst, he originally planned to me the movie on Howard Hughes. Welles, is intrigued with fakery, and it's place in the art world, as well as the so-called "experts", who are the ones being conned. Without experts, their wouldn't be fakes, would there be? Then, what would Elmyr be? Some thoughts we ponder as Elmyr paints us a portrait of another former art forger, Michaelangelo. The last third of the movie, is a wonder to behold, as Welles reveals an even more elaborate forging story, one involving dozens of Picassos and a mysterious woman, who new all three of the people involved up until now, and how she might know more about the forging scandal than we we're led to believe. Of course, that story is just a story, as Welles reveals to use finally, and all storytelling, including and especially filmmaking, is just simply, the telling of lies. "F for Fake", is one of Welles's best and most orignal films!

I AM CURIOUS--BLUE (1970) Director: Vilgot Sjoman

2 STARS



I AM CURIOUS--YELLOW (1969) Director: Vilgot Sjoman

3 STARS



Usually when movies come in multiples, I review them separately. I just did that recently when I added the "Three Colors Trilogy" to my Canon of Film series. I guess I could talk about the "I Am Curious" films separately, but I think it's better talking about together. (Also, frankly they're not exactly worth much discussion) Despite the American release dates, actually "...Blue", was made before the more famous "...Yellow", and both films star many of the same actors, and the films, have essentially the same plot, the same characters, the same style..., basically they are two versions of the same movie, just told a couple slight different ways. What happened was that, despite the American release date given above, "I Am Curious--Blue" was actually shot first, and started without a script, and the director didn't like the finished product, which is often compared to the structure of"...Tristam Shandy", and like "Yellow", it involves two characters, Lena and Vilgot (Lena Nyman and the film's director Vilgot Sjoman), who are starting a relationship, right as Vilgot is making this movie, that combines the sexual revolution of the sixties with this discussion of the changing politics of the world, and Swedish (Well, the fictional Sweden in this film), in terms with the recent Fascist Franco regime in Spain. It's very schizophrenic, and very Tristram Shandy, if you know that famous book, about a guy who procrastinate so much in telling his own story, he never actually gets around to his birth. "...Blue," different "I Am Curious--Yellow" also involves Lena, getting caught up in the middle of a couple relationships, including a lesbian one, and there's a lot of graphic sex in both movies, which is probably the most famous aspects of the films. "I Am Curious--Yellow" in particular, was banned in the Massachusetts originally because it's graphic sexual depictions. (Translation: A girl kisses a penis. There's other sex, but that's the part that caused the banning) This lead to a landmark court case, where both sides won during multiple stages of the deliberations. Both films use extreme conflicting imagery. In "...Yellow", Lena's room is filled with images of concentration camps, and a blackboard, counting the days her brother went off to fight against Franco's army. In both movies, there's also these documentary-style interview segments about the Class system in Sweden, but in "...Yellow", there's a memorable part where these interview question are put with archive of Dr. Martin Luther King. I don't particularly know, what they're saying with this avant-garde approach, but it's always startling to hear Dr. King talking I've noticed. There are other films that were bitter fit avant-garde films from that era across Europe, that were constantly reconciling the politics of the world with the sexual revolution, the best one I've seen is "WR: Mysteries of the Organism", the Yugoslavian film that begins as a documentary on Wilhelm Reich, and turns into a political fictional parable, that was also graphically sexual, but did a far better job of mixing the two extremes. Both "I Am Curious" films are interesting curiosities  and especially "Yellow", can be described as a bit of a landmark. Many argue that it's one of the major films that brought upon the rise of the more artistic and popular softcore pornography in the seventies, like "Deep Throat", and "Debbie Does Dallas" to name a few. I can't quite call them good films, but I had to chose "Yellow" is somewhat better, and don't even mind recommending it barely, but I think both are for the hardcore film scholars and historians who shop for DVD titles with the words "Criterion Collection" on them.

A LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN (1971) Director: Lucio Fulci

4 STARS



One of the leaders of Italian gore, "A Lizard in a Woman's Skin" is the first feature I've seen from the controversial director Lucio Fulci. He's most well-known internationally for horror films, like "Zombie", a film some consider a pseudo sequel to George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead", and he's often characterized as a horror filmmaker, but a closer look at his filmography, reveals to be a little all over the map, genre-wise. "A Lizard in a Woman's Skin", is both erotic and gory, and really quite a fun little mystery. Carol Hammond (Florinda Bolkan) is the daughter of a prominent police detective, who's currently seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Kerr (George Rigaud), and discussing in detail dreams she's having of her neighbor, the bisexual Deborah (Silvia Monti) and, eh-, let's just say they're really good dreams, most of them. The last one she has however, involves her stabbing Deborah to death in a fit rage after another sexual encounter. These scenes are hallucinogenic in nature, they even come with hippies, much less the shooting and editing style. However, after her latest dream, Deborah is killed, naked in her bed, and because of the in-depth detail of her dreams, she's naturally considered a suspect. Also a suspect is the psychiatrist, and also her husband, Frank (Jean Sorel), who is good friends with Dr. Kerr, and has been having affairs of his own, and it's not unlikely that he was having an affair with Deborah, who, let's just say, constantly had visitors. Inspector Corvin (Stanley Baker) is investigating the case, and while some of the criminology doesn't quite seem realistic, even by 1970s standards, the film turns into a fairly interesting procedural, especially when somebody starts taking multiple shots at the Inspector, and a few other people, including his daughter McKenna (Franco Balducci), who gets way too involved in the mystery, way too late to be useful. The movie is as much about tone as anything else, and the tone is certainly alluring. As violent as it is sexual, even during the most mundane and cliche of scenes, this undertone is erotic. I'm not gonna lie, it's not the complicated mystery film of all-time; I figured it out pretty quickly myself, but of course, the great part of a mystery, is seeing all the places that the investigation takes you, and the investigation went to some pretty fun places. "A Lizard in a Women's Skin" is  powerful. It's a bit trashy and cliche, but it's good trash, and it uses some good cliches. Definitely have to remember to look out for more Fucli films.

HUMAN NATURE (2000) Director: Michel Gondry

3 1/2 STARS



Every time I see something written by the great Charlie Kaufman, I think about what Catherine Keener said to her agent after she finished reading the script for "Being John Malkovich". "Who the fuck is Charlie Kaufman, and what the fuck is wrong with him!?" "Human Nature", was the one film of his that I hadn't gotten to until now. The first feature film directed by Michel Gondry, who'd later team up with Kaufman, for the masterful "Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind", "Human Nature" is probably the most minor piece written by Kaufman, but it's still quite entertaining, and just as strange and whimsical and bizarre as everything else of his. The story is told in multiple flashbacks, including one from beyond the grave, one during a Senate hearing, another told to police detectives about a story, involving three, people. Let's start with Lila Jute (Patricia Arquette, in a brave performance), who has a rare condition where she grows hair all over her body like an ape. Originally, she hid it the best she could, and occasionally worked in a freak show with a dwarf named Frank (Peter Dinklage) but eventually began rejecting the civilized world and started living in nature with the apes, which she wrote a few articles and bestsellers on, as she let all her hair grow out. However, after a while being alone with the animals, she starts a process of having her hair removed by an electrologist (Rosie Perez), because she was horny, and started looking for a man. The second person is Dr. Nathan Bronfman (Tim Robbins), who works on his government-funding project to teach table manners to mice. His parents (Toby Huff and Mary Kay Place) were very stringent on Nathan as a kid, and now, all of his energy and passion is devoted to training and teaching others manners of behavior. He's currently with his old assistant Gabrielle (Miranda Otto), but soon, when he's with her, and hires Lila as an assistant, he begins being with her. Then there's Puff (Rhys Ifans), which is the name given to him, after he is found in the wilderness, by Nathan and Lila, and they believe him to have been raised in the wilderness by apes. This is actually partly true, but he's also been civilized once before, and now is acting as though he hasn't been, as he's placed in a glass box, and begin being taught table manners himself, and eventually, when he's civilized enough, the repression of his sexual desires in public, with one of the final test of course, being at Hooters. I don't want to give away all the details of what happens, I couldn't if I tried; it too convoluted and classically screwball, just set on that thin line between Darwin, Nature vs. Nurture and Frued. That very thin line, I must say. I can guarantee that you won't see another movie quite like it, and the path the film takes to get to that point where we see two mice, holding up a sign, trying to hitchhike to New York, is absolutely priceless. I don't know what the fuck is wrong with Charlie Kaufman but thank god something is. Nobody creates more unique and original screenplays in Hollywood right now. May every screenwriter have "Human nature" as their worst script.

IDIOTS AND ANGELS (2008) Director: Bill Plympton

4 1/2 STARS



Bill Plympton's a bit of a cult figure in the world of animation. Two of his shorts have recieved Oscar nominations, and his unusual style this hand-drawn pencil-like animation is quite remarkable. He's passed up opportunities to be a more major name in animation, but he's remained that more intriguing figure over the years. One of my friends gave me a VHS copy of his film "The Tune" awhile back; I keep meaning to get to that one, but then again, I also keep meaning to set-up my VCR to watch it, and never turns out like I plan either. "Idiots and Angels", is a fairly cool twisted introduction to Plympton. There isn't much dialogue in his films, although at one point, a Tom Waits songs starts getting played. , and here, it's mostly silent, but we follow a guy named Angel, a gun dealer who spends most of his days in a bar and wakes up an attacks chirping birds his with chirping alarm clock. After getting into a conflict with one guy, he ignites the guy's gastank on his car. In the bar, he has his way with the bar owner's wife, molesting and attacking her, riding her figuratively and literally during one intoxicated salsa dance. Suddenly however, he wakes up one morning, to find wings growing out of his back. Angels are always an intriguing film subject, I think because there's such limitless possibilities with them. The new twist I've seen recently in this film, and in a French film I reviewed awhile ago called "Ricky", this idea of humans, suddenly taking on literal physical characteristics and behaviors of angels, is a cool new foil to it, and it's perfect for animation, as it is here. He tries to get rid of the wings, which not only are a burden, but also can be very desirable by others, so he tries to hide, but eventually, he's unable to go through his normal evil misanthropic motions, and starts fighting with the bar owner, who wants his wings, and is naturally pissed at Angel, for being with his wife, but he wants the wings so he can fly, and then, uses them for profit by tossing hand grenades to all his competition in the middle of the night. He also has the help of a ghastly over-bearing prostitute, the bar's only other regular patron. The story is naturally absurd, but you never know where the hell it's going, and the animation, once you get used to it, is quite unique and very special. The film is dark and film noirish, and wonderfully moody. Plympton can and has been more colorful, but this one is filled with grays and outlines, it is, what it looks like, just somebody who's drawing. Just starting with idiots and angels as characters, is already half-way to a pretty good movie right there, and the completed film is certainly a bizarre, surreal and fun treat.

MAX (2002) Director: Menno Meyjes

4 1/2 STARS



One of the most important facts about him, and one of the most critical aspects into understanding him, is that Hitler wanted to be an artist. I've heard, and even said that refrain myself on multiple occasions, and sure enough, if you really want to study the Holocaust, it's clear that the Third Reich has much the same qualities of an artistic expression. The film "Max", the first film directed by Screenwriter Menno Meyjes, he wrote the script for "The Color Purple" and the third Indiana Jones film, among other things, gives us a fictional, but no less improbable account of a young Adolf Hitler (Noah Taylor), the struggling artist, who came home to nothing after WWI, and Germany's surrender, left the country in shambles. The title character however is Max Rothman (John Cusack) a Jewish art dealer, who himself was a potentially great painter who lost his dominant right arm during the war. What little I know of Hitler's paintings, and yes, there are a few that are actually around, he was a traditionalist, who detested, and of course, later banned the abstract art that was more popular at the time. There's a few sketches and paintings in the film, many of them seem to have potential but lack the point of view that Rothman continually tries to force it out of him. I once heard that Hitler's painting are structural, architectural in nature, and can at times be skillful in that regard, but he never quiet draw the faces so well. (Sure enough a quick Google search of his art, finds many paintings of buildings, and land, but obscured views of the people) Hitler does start becoming a well-known name on the Army propaganda circuit, which is the early forms which became the Nazis, built from the ashes of frustrated WWI vets, who are disgusted at the government's unconditional surrender, and begin blaming their loss on the Jews. Ironic, Hitler himself is reluctant to participate, but is such a gifted orator, that he keeps getting invited to talk, to more and more people. Rothman is a Jew, and while he certainly doesn't like the rhetoric, he sees the passion in Hitler's political performances far more than in his paintings and sketches. It's easy to place the film in context with, you know, history, but the movie itself, correctly doesn't quite know that yet. It's heading that way, and the film isn't a justification of Hitler's actions, nor an explanation, just a hypothetical. A plausible hypothetical. Charles Manson famously was rejected by the music industry. Something to think about, but the core of the film is the tenuous mentor/mentee relationship between Max and Adolf. Max isn't frustrated not that he can't paint, at least not outwardly, but manages to channel it int his new performance art, as well as his wife, Nina (Molly Parker) and his mistress Liselore (Leelee Sobieski). At the beginning of the movie, he seems to be living the full life that Hitler craves. Envy can be just as powerful an emotion as denial. "Max" is quite a striking film. A good one, one that asks us, not to revision history, but to think carefully and closely about how one human, and yes, Hitler was a man, can become so powerful, and create such destruction and devastation. "Max" is quite a good film, about a very troubling subject.



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