…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “1975

Best Shot: Dog Day Afternoon

No, that’s not my best shot from Dog Day Afternoon, although that this movie begins by showing an image of a moving ship, among more b-roll, counts as guffaw-worthy to me. Because the rest of the movie presents the clashing that occurs during movement within claustrophobic surroundings, that this combination is more explosive than any kind of action in a city like 1970’s New York where something’s always happening. Sonny Wortzik (Al Pacino) and his accomplice Sal (John Cazale) planned a simple bank robbery in a branch in Brooklyn but one mistake after another turned it into barricaded televised street theatre. And we have to note that Sidney Lumet is the best person to document this story, one of the few who understood New York and its citizens’ contradictory cosmopolitan nature. Sonny is short, armed and scrappy and that’s not even where that list ends.

Nathaniel’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot series, just like movies themselves are visual  obviously, but Dog Day Afternoon is equally a sonic experience. Sonny and Moretti (Charles Durning) and all the others involved applauded or mocked by a pre-internet flash mob (they all suddenly appear as the cops set up the barricades, it’s hilarious). While rewatching this movie I wished that the players and the audience shared more screen time. And while Moretti was on his bullhorn, I wonder if a simple screen cap conveys that context that there’s an audience echoing his booming calls to Sonny. Can a screen cap let a neophyte understand that Sonny is waving to dozens of people with joy and not look like a deranged person? Can the breeze and the sweat give a hint that there are hundreds of eyes watching the two of them?

Sounds influence actions, like in the scene when cops try to break in through the windows of the back wall of the bank and the clusterfuck that happens afterwards. When he shoots the tellers inside get frantic and the people outside duck and scurry.

There are also moments that work as decrescendos here, the characters’ bellows and pleadings compensating for the lack of running around or gun pointing. No bullhorn needed, like the breeze or the light make these characters across the street from a bank look like magical vision for Sonny, begging for his sanity. And Sonny yells back, the best use of Pacno’s lung power because there’s a whole city block to fill with his voice.

But back to movement and energy, my favourite element of this movie encapsulated by the shots that I remember when this movie gets brought up in conversation. So much running in this movie, making for two of my best shots here.

Sonny trying to find out who the person is across the street who is realizing that a robbery is taking place. Moretti running either to his trigger happy cops to back away from Sonny or to running towards a random passerby who assaults Sonny. Moretti takes on a substitute father role for Sonny (Sonny’s real father, played by Dominic Chianese of Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire fame, is on the border of disowning his poverty-stricken son). Both surrogate father and son have trouble with the spaces they inhabit. The petulant child is moping inside while appeasing the female-dominated playground that he thinks he he’s entitled to. The father trying to make the son content while tugging on the strings of the forces of the outside world that he can barely control, which is, after all, what Sonny tragically struggles with.

HMWYBS: Reactions to Adele H.

I’m only writing on this space for Nathaniel R.’s Best Shot series (we’re still waiting on Possessed :S) because my water birth-like paragraphs about the shots from Francois Truffaut‘s The Story of Adele H. that interest me are too long for tumblr. Truffaut thought that Adele’s story as fitting to tell in a 95 minute feature. However she is only and arguably unjustly seen as a footnote in her father Victor Hugo’s life and only having a stub page in Wikipedia. Anyway….

Third runner-up, because of what iMDb’s mothboy88 thinks:

When Adele (Isabelle Adjani) writes “Victor Hugo” in the dust on the mirror, and then wipes it off, it’s almost exactly the same as when Hanzo writes “Bill” on the window, and The Bride wipes it off with her sleeve.

Although I can’t remember which Kill Bill he or she is talking about. Part 1?

Second runner-up: I’m probably not the only Canadian who reads Nathaniel but I’m probably the loudest. If I was patriotic I’d dedicate this whole post to Canadian representations in this movie, since it’s mostly set in Halifax. I was also a bit irritated at how half of the characters didn’t know who Hugo was, or that this movie made Halifax look like a city for less than the 50,000 of its population during the film’s time period of 1863. Or that it wasn’t filmed in that city until iMDB’s pbellema reminded me that Old Halifax blew up in World War I, the same war that put the news of her death in the fringes. I also realized that beginning the story with a map reminds me of Casablanca but this movie is obviously more depressing.

Runner up: Because it’s my space I would like to talk about my broken heart. And fittingly, downward spirals are one of Truffaut’s favourite arcs. There are many instances where I withdraw my investment on such stories from him and other directors, as much as I appreciate the execution and the acting in those movies’ final moments. Regardless of what I think about these kind of movies, my tendencies to over-read images sees this shot as a heterosexual masculine aversion from ‘ridiculous’ women, or the world, gender dominated or otherwise, rejecting her. It’s also a majestic moment in an otherwise intimate movie, although it makes me feel like an asshole that my runner-up shot shows Adjani’s back instead of her beautiful face.

Best: If the earlier shot shows the movie’s world, this shot explains its format. This is not your average epistolary movie, as she recites her letters instead of being heard through voice-overs. What captivated me visually is how it’s dark and grimy like a Delacroix painting (this movie loves the colour brown). The scene where this shot belongs to also puts many things into context, how she has to cut paper from a roll like she would for bread. How she would talk about how her father owes her money which, even to me who belongs to the ‘entitled generation’ sounds unthinkable. How her beloved Albert’s position would be jeopardized and how single-minded love like hers might and should have only existed in her lifetime.

100: Opal and the Locals

I didn’t realize I had to pay attention to the opening credits until I saw Jeff Goldblum’s name being read aloud. The worst part is that I couldn’t point him out in this ‘panoramic’ film until halfway through watching it. This is also the most creative opening credits I have seen so far.

The character in this film that had the biggest impression on me is Opal (Geraldine Chaplin), a BBC reporter. Nobody in director Robert Altman’s all-star cast films is cut from the same cloth as the rest, and each character is an outsider in their own way. However, there’s gotta be one character who really sticks out, although it’s debatable who it is in his films. In Gosford Park, in my opinion it’s Bob Balaban’s American vegetarian producer, in A Prairie Home Companion, it’s Virginia Madsen’s character. In Nashville it’s definitely Opal. In her first scene, Haven Hamilton’s cute-ish son Buddy (Dave Peel) kicks her out of his father’s recording and is forced to hang out next door to a session of a mostly black choir led by a white woman named Linnea (Lily Tomlin). Opal prattles on about ‘Keenya’ and the Masai, who if I’m right, should be way down lower in the continent. Opal tops it off with

Look at that rhythm, it’s fantastic. You know it’s funny you can see it’s come down from the genes through ages and ages and hundreds of years but it’s there. Take off those robes, and, and one is in, in darkest Africa you can just see their naked frenzied bodies dancing to the beat of…Do they carry on like that in church?

Chaplin’s usually quiet and reserved in other films in both English (Doctor Zhivago) and Spanish (Habla con Ella, El Orfanato). Here she plays against type but isn’t out of her element.

Interruption – Sueleen’s not that bad of a singer in this scene at least, serenading the Tricycle Man (Goldblum).

Interruption – LA Joan (Shelley Duvall) doesn’t look at the camera, Altman’s improvised 360 on character method at work. Duvall also plays a character that she isn’t that known for.My TA once told us that she was seen as a sex symbol of the 70’s, and really? First Farrah Fawcett RIP and now her? God old generations have weird tastes. Even Tom (Keith Carradine) from Tom, Bill and Mary is questioning that. ‘Jesus, you gotta stop that diet before you ruin yourself.’

Tom mows on to his path of asshatery by turning down a Hal Phillip Walker volunteer and ask a cute Sargeant (Scott Glenn) if he’s killed anybody this week.

Interruption – WANDA WANDA WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE IT WAS A HIT! Unlike my ironic appreciation of Opal, Lady Pearl (Barbara Baxley) is my favourite character in the film.When a fight breaks out in her joint, she calms the audiences down by screaming ‘I have two guns in here!’ She’s not always like that, however. She represent the Catholics in this city of many Protestant denominations, and in a later soliloquy she carries the heart that this film needs and that the other characters are not able to express by themselves.

Back – Opal’s in Linnea’s car, stuck in multiple car crash on the freeway. She’s exaggerating accounts on seeing limbs sticking out from the cars, talking about how America is about cars smashing into each other and complaining about how her cameraman isn’t here to capture the action. Linnea asks someone off-camera to get her some popsicle to combat Opal’s hyperventilation. She interviews Linnea and finds out that the latter’s children are deaf. Only she can react with insensitivity, irascible to Linnea’s pleas to meet the children and see their great personalities. For some reason the BBC’s human resources at the time is either dysfunctional or full of nepotism. She eventually moves on to Tommy Brown’s car. The man doesn’t know what the BBC is. The pre-interview with Brown is the least awkward of her encounters. Of course, she screws that up,

He must be a marvelous person because I mean to have all you lovely people working for him. I the South I know the problems of the South, you know I’ve heard of them.

Because it’s nice, the van plays into her obliviousness than set her straight.

Interruption – Smoking in the hospital. Classy. She’d rather flirt with Buddy than see her dying aunt, which is why she’s even in Nashville.

LA Joan and Opal are just two of the selfish characters in the movie. Nashville, as an environment, promotes narcissism and entrepreneurship. You can become a country western star, hang out with them or sleep with them. There are, however, hindrances to everyone’s ventures, who never get what they want as they have imagined it. There are limits to even the stardom statuses of Tommy Brown and Haven Hamilton, both powerless against the tests of time. I might also be stretching for a bit, but the offshoots of  narcissism is other minor character’s guttural need for self-sustainability – like the Tricycle Man drinking his own magic alcohol inside someone else’s establishment. But he, like the other characters, mean well.

Despite of this, there’s also no character who stands further aside from the rest, eviscerating them or putting the mirror in front of  their faces. And Tom and Sueleen’s boyfriend don’t really count because they only have one liners and they don’t change anybody’s perspective. None of these people are capable of doing so since everyone has their flaws. There are other reasons why such a character doesn’t exist in this film or any of the Altman films I’ve seen. Why admonish characters for going for what they want? For example, Winifred (Barbara Harris), pursues her country star dream while her abusive husband is always inches away. Or Buddy who went to Harvard law to please his father instead of singing songs himself. Arguably, those are more tragic scenario we would rather not see in place of what the other characters are doing. Besides, if a character goes against another for being selfish, he has to go against twenty-three other characters. Why tire yourself?

This post is overdue, having watched it almost two weeks ago. I’m letting the late fees ride out and I hope it’s not gonna kill my pocket. If I wrote my gut reaction to the film, it’ll be like ‘This movie’s long.’ Sitting on it, however, and waiting that long to write about it, made my ideas about the film ferment. It’s that kind of flick.

100: Jaws

ph. Universal

The first time I caught Jaws was on TCM in the third act of the film, where it pretty much takes place on a boat and I thought that was the movie. This film, then, became part of the TIFF’s Essential 100 and was introduced by NOW Magazine film critic Norman Wilner. He enthusiastically gave it a lot of superlatives. ‘The greatest accident in the history of cinema.’ ”The greatest American film’ – I disagree but my answer’s really boring. In a write-up of yesterday’s issue of NOW, he also writes, ‘…ask the TIFF people how the hell a film this gripping managed to place 79th on their stupid list.’ Meow.

What I will say is that one of the key elements in this movie is subtlety – there are a lot of scares but not too much. There’s Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gray), the strongest female amidst a groan-worthy male-dominated cast. She comes up behind her husband Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), but the camera’s not on her POV. That would have made the scene into a cheap scare. Later on, her complacent reaction to her son being on his boat changes when she sees Martin’s book with an illustration of a boat being t-boned by a shark, her fear added by the two shark attacks that hits their small town of Amity. She’s not the only one bringing comic relief, however. Martin has his share of calling out bad hat Harrys. Despite of that the shark attacks still put me at the edge of my seat for most of the film.

It’s also a film that has the best shot compositions on film. However, unlike films that take the cake in cinematography, Jaws’ cinematography doesn’t call attention in itself. There is an opening shots of the coral reef, two silhouettes of young adults kissing by a bonfire, another drunk college boy lying by the beach. There’s arguably a lull period in between, then a shot of a typewritten form about a dead young woman’s (Denise Cheshire) body transferred to a ‘CORNER’S OFFICE’ and a long shot of Brody framed by flowers and it’s shot by shot heaven after that, despite of the bloody shots of course. Wilner also said that this film is timeless, and with the exception of red corduroy pants and shots of people smoking indoors, he’s pretty right. It’s in the faces of the characters seemingly drawn or bordered from the background images as well portraying an evolved post-Tennessee Williams, post-Hitchcock Americana that does make it timeless. And yes, I paid attention to the cinematography to distract myself from being scared throughout most of the film, which didn’t work.

Speaking of urban-rural divides, this movie is one of those that came out around 1974 and 1975 that features a character moving away from the city only to find troubles in rural America. Brody is a New York City ex-pat, where ‘the crime rate will kill ‘ya,’ and in Amity his main concerns are boy scouts and mending fences. That’s until the shark came in. With the mysterious shark in the equation, he also has to deal with a mayor and a civic committee who wants the beaches open. When the creature makes Alex Kinder his second victim, Brody’s the one who gets slapped. The second victim does get him the permission to recruit Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), an oceanographer, but the mayor still want the beaches open and he’s the one who has to make sure the waters are safe and litter them with deputies.

Director Steven Spielberg doesn’t shy away from unsympathetic characters, the mayor being the first one. He doesn’t even need to raise an eyebrow when Hooper wants to make sure that the tiger shark caught by fishermen is the real one. He also borders between shock and lucidity when Brody’s eldest son almost became the shark’s fourth victim, this event finally convincing him to approve the closing of the beaches until the shark is captured by Quint (Robert Shaw), a shark hunter. He stutters and justifies his decisions, saying that he’s acting in the town’s best interest, and he’s right in a way. He wants business to flow through Amity and doesn’t want to put people in more shock by closing them. Three dead victims are bad enough without economically crippling the small town.

The second unsympathetic character is Quint himself, who I found off-putting, greedy, crass and doesn’t really come around to getting my sympathy. He’s a war hero to some, he’s a war criminal to me. However,  unlike other ‘working class heroes,’ Quint doesn’t try to seduce us with adventure and neither does he smooth his edges out and sells himself like he’s everybody else. He doesn’t make the labour more difficult for the two men he doesn’t want on his ship, but nonetheless the work comes first. yes, he does talk about a past but doesn’t make that his pathos and he doesn’t really take Hooper’s rich college boy background against him. I don’t like him, but in cabin fever situations like that of the film’s third act, you have to. He also realizes this and mixes up the dynamic between Brody and Hooper – it used to be just the two of them but Quint by default makes Hooper his right hand man and kinda alienates Brody.

Trivia: Peter Benchley, the author of the book also named Jaws, wanted Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Steve McQueen in the cast. Boring. Jaws screened last Sunday at the Lightbox and there was a line-up in front of the 300 seater where it was screened. The Lightbox is showing it for the second time tonight at 11, without an introduction. Still, come.

Singin’ in the Dark!

Hey, it’s Lucy from “The Office UK“/”Studio 60″/”Ugly Betty.”I don’t know which one of those shows that she had a character named Lucy but I’m gonna call her Lucy anyway. And a guy who plays Poppy’s (Sally Hawkins) brother-in-law in Happy Go Lucky. I swear casts in British films are so incestuous, although they never mix the ‘rich’ ones with the ‘poor’ ones. The one on the middle is Simon Pegg and the one who’s back is facing the audience is a zombie.

His name is Eddie…Paulson? Fact! The first time I saw this film was at Daylight Savings Time at Much More Music. Technically the movie went on for an hour. I also can’t remember how it ends. I’ve always been afraid to watch the movie on the big screen because apparently if you mess up the words, you get stripped in front of everyone. Anyway, Meat Loaf is telling off that boy something fierce. Also, why does every ‘bad’ movie between 1967 to 1980 need a muscle-y blonde man bimbo? That rule still exists today, a muscle-y blonde man bimbo appears as a character in Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats.

Was Alfred Molina ever this skinny? Is my question too generous? Although I’ve only seen it enough to get the gist of it, I have the DVD here and my rusty French translates the title to Nights of the Devil or Diabolical Nights or something.

Ohh, Gaad! Anyway, I’ve always thought of Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) as Quentin Tarantino‘s on-screen double. Also, Coconut is so the best song in this movie.

Note to Americans: only the gay Canadians have the ‘beady little eyes.’ And fine, it’s funny hearing Anne Murray being called a bitch.

If I was a Congressman, I’d make America F**k Yeah the national anthem. Although best part of this film involves its parody of Susan Sarandon. And I usually hate homophobia in film, but seeing Tim Robbins and Sean Penn be called F.A.G.’s seemed really funny. Well, mostly because I hate Sean Penn.

After the Team America clip, we have this, and for a split second the curtains and the wallpaper made me think of the balcony space in ‘The Muppets.’ But no, this is a real person from Blue Velvet‘s wacky world. There’s always interludes of 1960’s American songs, and we thank David Lynch for seeing something dark in that decade. Speaking of the 60’s, I wonder what would happen if David Lynch directed an episode of “Mad Men.” Oh wait, that already happened.

Sookie! When I yelled that at the screen, the hipsters in front of me laughed. Funny thing is I don’t even watch “True Blood.” And again, I didn’t even know she was in this movie, especially since I loved Anna Paquin as a child. I previously blogged about how I hate Kate Hudson, but I kinda like her again here. Here her face still looks like that of an awkward teenager’s, and it’s still mesmerizing to watch her sing. I declare an Almost Famous curse, because the cast members except Billy Crudup ended up doing bad movies. Well, Paquin did have 25th Hour, and she’s better than doppelgänger Claire Danes can aspire to be.

I’m so ashamed to not know the lyrics to this song, because my dad is like the biggest Tears for Fears fan and I listened to this stuff in high school. My dad thinks the members of Tears for Fears met in a mental ward. Anyway, my favourite movie in high school, and one that needs revisiting stat! Also, when Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Gretchen (Jena Malone) kiss. Joy Division has never been better used in a soundtrack.

Joseph Gordon Levitt for mayor! Although Joe Levitt would sound like he’s running in the South.

Dance, white boy, dance!

‘Singin’ in the Dark’ programmer Shawn Hitchins says that this is what it’s gonna be like if Rob Ford gets elected for mayor. Best film criticism I’ve heard all year.

Courtney Love auditioned for the role of Nancy in… Sid and Nancy, but the casting agents considered her too young and it went to Chloe Webb. Love thanks the gods for not giving her the role because British TV called Chloe Webb ugly. I agree. And was Gary Oldman ever that young?

And we end this ding along with blasphemy. This is both optimistic and cynical. The Eric Idle character tries to comfort us, but they all end up alone and deserted, no one venerating them for their deaths. Yet.

Multitude of thanks to Hitchins for giving me the list of movies he chose for his sing along “Singin’ in the Dark” as part of this year’s Nuit Blanche, which is like the only event in my calendar. Photos courtesy of Universal (Shaun of the Dead, Blues Brothers) 20th Century Fox (Rocky Horror Picture Show), Alliance Atlantis (Boogie Nights) Miramax (Reservoir Dogs), Paramount (South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut), Pandora Films (Donnie Darko), MGM (Blue Velvet, Sid and Nancy), Fox Searchlight (500 Days of Summer) Warner Brothers’ Pictures (A Clockwork Orange), HandMade Films (Life of Brian).

Salo, or 120 Days of…

ph. Criterion

Saw this at the TIFF Cinematheque as part of their Pasolini retrospective. Apparently I would have stayed longer in the theatre for 25 more minutes if the Cinematheque had the premiere version. It’s either in Criterion, on the internets, or is lost ‘forever.’

The movie isn’t porn. It isn’t titillating, unless having a two second glimpse of 16-year old flaccid penis gets you off, which is, good for you I guess. Four men, the Duke, the Bishop, the Magistrate and the President sign a book of rules, shepherd eighteen adolescent boys and girls into a mansion and degrade them sexually. There isn’t the contact nor intimacy nor should I say, intensity of ‘normal’ sexual activities. The adolescents are ‘taught’ sexual acts and are told that that’s their purpose. They have to please these four men and their pleasure isn’t a reward. And they eat shit and they get sliced in the forehead. If you were expecting something else, sigh on you.

It’s funny how I can’t show any nudity or sexual acts to a 20 year old in the screen caps – I won’t anyway – but it would probably have been OK to show the same 20 year old with a gun on his head. Or his tongue cut off.

This movie is Pasolini’s critique of fascism in Italy, but I’ll get back to more on that. While the men are examining one of the potential girls, the Magistrate asks her if he will prefer them to the nuns in the convent, the gamine answers that she doesn’t know that yet. This might look like overreading, but a madam transfers the innocent child from one oppressive system to another, a typical problem in ‘modern’ Europe when religious absolute monarchies are overthrown by totalitarian regimes like that in Italy. Depending on your judgment of the girl’s fortune, she wasn’t chosen because of a missing tooth. The nuns already turned her into damaged goods.

Again, critique of Fascist Italy, and conspiracy theories suggest the Neo-Fascist P2 killed Pasolini. That was repeated by my friend’s friend outside the theatre at the end of the film, who likened the mansion in Salo to the 9 billion secret prisons being built in Canada at this moment – his opinion, not mine. The fact that Fascism ruled in more than one country in Europe, and that threat constantly pops up made the film more resonant to me. And that I couldn’t like the inane blindness and heteronormative stance of Amarcord, a movie made near the same time about the same earlier period, after watching Salo. Although it’s not a great one or a favourite, it’s essential.

However, Michael Haneke names this one of his ten favourite films. Obviously.

Dersu Uzala

DersuUzala(Captain ph. secret)

I am inclined to compare the cinematography of “Dersu Uzala” to a Hiroshige, but the film’s visuals come into their own, original being. Hiroshige would show us blossoms bordering the view, while other artwork and films about forests would show the vertical properties of the trees, blocking the sunlight. There are not a lot of animals shown in this film’s version of Siberia, but the two or three that show up do end up being like characters instead of just props.

Kurosawa is hailed as a master in black and white cinematography, but I am probably one of the daft ones who think that colour is his best friend. I like the films he made in the 70’s and 80’s compared to the dusty look his classic material. In this film, the trees crowd in and cozy up on the Russian surveyors  and their eponymous Mongolian guide, although there is enough sunlight to make the footmen feel safe, for a while.

That’s the reason why I like this film – I don’t mind the good samurai versus bad samurai, but I love that nature can turn from pretty backdrop to harsh villain. The exact opposite of the crowded forests is the barren lakeside during winter, the object of Arseniev’s expedition. Getting lost from their colleagues, Dersu warns Arseniev to work fast and cut the grass before the sun disappears. The sunset looks just as menacing as the one that takes over the frame in “Lawrence of Arabia.” Arseniev faints a few times from exhaustion and cold and Dersu is there to save his life.

“Dersu Uzala” is not just a study of nature. The titular character is a great addition to great characters of colour in film, being more stern than your average Uncle Tom. It is also a study in friendship, and how friendships are more about the circumstances that begin them instead of the two parties involved. Just like friendships it is how some people are only fit for certain environments and certain times, and how the hostile forests and the urban order can do to those people.