2.26.2007

Charley Varrick





Joe Don Baker and Christina Hart in Charley Varrick (dir. Don Siegel, 1973).

The best post-Body Snatchers Don Siegel film I've seen yet. A very Elmore Leonard feel: lots of colorful bad guys, seedy-hip Nevada locations, and groooovy seventies decor. This must be where Tarantino got that "pair of pliers and a blowtorch" line in Pulp Fiction (and Bridget Fonda's wardrobe in Jackie Brown). Matthau's good, but the real scene-stealers are Joe Don Baker as the hit man Molly, and John Vernon as the corrupt businessman Maynard Boyle. It's heist-tastic! Apparently, however, it's only available in a crummy pan-and-scan edition on a DVD with no menu.

2.25.2007

Faces





John Marley in Faces (dir. John Cassavetes, 1968).

It's like cinematographer Al Ruban infused the camera with his own consciousness, and Cassavetes communicated telepathically with the actors, making everything come together into one impassioned strand of living, breathing celluloid tissue. A consummate fusion of filmic and verbal poetry. The dialogue is like the images: just this side of linear, naturalistic up to a point, and then the point goes soft and blurry. One character remarks about Marley's character: "There he goes with that uncanny phraseology of his again." (Interestingly, according to an undocumented anecdote I found by googling the phrase, Sam Fuller used to talk about a certain kind of noir speech as "uncanny phraseology"--I wonder if this was an intentional nod by Cassavetes.)

2.24.2007

The Molly Maguires





See you in hell: Sean Connery and Richard Harris in The Molly Maguires (dir. Martin Ritt, 1970).

Wow. This was much better than I thought it would be. A terrorist cell of Pennsylvania coal miners in the pre-union 1870s is infiltrated by a detective informer. Everything works: cinematography, editing, music, performances, script, and flawless pacing. Several reviewers have remarked that films like this could never get made in Hollywood today, and films like this may be part of the reason they can't: its downbeat moral/political theme made it a massive failure at the box office.

2.23.2007

Salesman




Closing the deal: Salesman (dir. Albert Maysles, David Maysles, & Charlotte Zwerin, 1969).

Another Maysles brothers documentary. The subject: traveling bible salesmen! By the time the film is halfway through, you're rooting for the poor sons of bitches to wring every last penny out of all those sorry underpaid working-class wretches who can't afford the clothes on their backs, let alone big tacky $50 bibles. Undoubtedly a major influence on Daniel J. Harris' mean-funny The Bible and Gun Club (1996), which I saw on Sundance several years ago.

2.22.2007

Guilty Pleasures






Allen observes that movies are different from poetry in their capacity for inducing guilty pleasure. I think he's right, and I believe the difference can be even more sharply drawn along the lines of the relationship between mainstream and independent systems. The movie mainstream does not have a clear parallel in the poetry mainstream. The only point where categories truly coalesce between the two mediums is the extreme indie-experimental realm. A film by Stan Brakhage or Kenneth Anger has a lot more in common with a poem by John Cage or Kenward Elmslie, for example, than a film by Jerry Bruckheimer or Quentin Tarantino has with a poem by Louise Gluck or Philip Levine. One way of putting it is that the divide in film between independent and mainstream is replicated in poetry only at the level of publishing, and there only in a loose structural sense, since even the highest-profile poetry books make little money. So whereas in film you have at least three categories (experimental | independent | mainstream), in film you really only have the middle one split into two factions that might as well be indistinguishable to anyone looking in from the outside. If the experimental/mainstream dichotomy in poetry were superimposed onto film (so to speak), you would have a world where the only movies were either 12-minute super-8 montages of ants crawling through wool, or heartfelt but wryly ironic urban coming-of-age narratives. You wouldn't have anything like Anchorman, The Matrix, or Dreamgirls. You wouldn't have Dr. Zhivago, Bringing Up Baby, or An American in Paris. You wouldn't have The Godfather, Annie Hall, or Vertigo. You might have Gummo and Like Water for Chocolate.

It's worth making the oft-repeated distinction here between different types of badness in movies. No one really thinks Plan 9 from Outer Space is a bad movie anymore, or Showgirls, or Reefer Madness. Movies like that essentially enjoy the status of Art Brut. Nor is it worth picking on unsuccessful films that are inept, but not in any interestingly deviant way, like Gigli, Heaven's Gate (which actually has elements of brilliance), or Ishtar. The kind of radioactive badness that actually makes money and manages to fool some people into thinking it's good is the real problem. Titanic, The English Patient, Good Will Hunting. To show up on the red zone of my bad-o-meter, a film has to have some currency as a valid vehicle on some level, and then abuse it in a big way. Worst film of all time: You've Got Mail. It's got charismatic leads with good chemistry (Hanks and Ryan), a plotline lifted from one of the best romantic comedies ever (Lubitsch's The Shop Around the Corner), and sublimely talented supporting actors (Parker Posey and Greg Kinnear). But not only does it manage to squander all these elements and congeal into a banal mass of pablum, it presents us with a heinously immoral "comedic" resolution: the struggling independent children's bookstore owner falls in love with the slimy corporate ogre who's buying her shop out and shutting it down. Principles abandoned, conflict settled. The End. This movie isn't a guilty pleasure for me--it's just an abomination. I hope I never have to see one second of it ever again. But movies that are true guilty pleasures do in some way broach the kind of badness I've just described. You feel bad for enjoying them because you feel in some way you've compromised your ethical integrity by submitting to their pleasures.

Allen's point is that guilty pleasures in poetry don't involve as much guilt as guilty pleasures in film. An appreciation for Whitman's expansiveness is hardly cause for self-recrimination. Feeling guilty for enjoying Whitman is approximately like feeling guilty for enjoying Once Upon a Time in the West. Ogden Nash is in some ways a good example, but even here, the pleasure comes ultimately from those qualities in Nash that are genuinely deserving of admiration: wit, irreverence, absurdity. Then there are cases like Pound or Spenser, where the poet's personal politics are heinous, but I would claim that what most people respond to favorably in poets like these is somewhat detachable from the offensive contexts. It's not the fascism in Pound that sucks one in, nor do most readers come away from him with an increased sense that Mussolini really had something after all, or that maybe those Jews really are ruining everything. If one indulges Pound, one generally does it in a way that acknowledges and attempts to compartmentalize his faults (D. W. Griffith would be a similar case in film). For a poem to be a true guilty pleasure, it has to be capable of offering something truly insidious and seductive: some false, soothing, fattening tonic that you want to sip on the sly. Something like When Harry Met Sally or Grease or Kindergarten Cop. The closest thing I can come up with is Billy Collins.

Is it a good or a bad thing that poetry doesn't offer distractions as powerful as the cinema? Both, I'd say. One the one hand, there's the Wordsworthian argument that poetry should offer a space for contemplation free from sensationalism, that it's exactly because poetry doesn't try to compete with the spectacular productions of the culture at large that it has value. The idea of poetry's uselessness as a safeguard against cooptation is persuasive on many levels. On the other hand, there's a timidity to this position that's off-putting. What would it look like if poetry were capable of producing popular mass-culture entertainments on a par with Lord of the Rings or American Pie or even Nacho Libre? The very idea is laughable, sure--but wouldn't even the failed attempts be a welcome change of pace from much of what is currently out there (and not just in the mainstream, either)?

---------

Addendum:

Old comment thread for this post:

Jonathan said...

For me a guilty pleasure in film would be something like "Death Wish" with Charles Bronson, where the "pleasure" is inseparable from the rather dumb politics and overall clunkiness of the movie. I agree about Once Upon a Time in the West. It's far too intellectual a pleasure for it to be a guilty one. By intellectual, I don't mean involving abstract thought, but "part of the habitus of contemporary intellectuals."
2/22/07 11:17 AM

Icepac said...

The time has come for fans of Ishtar to boldly proclaim their appreciation for this wonderful movie - not as a guiltly pleasure, but a guilt-free one!

This is going to be a great year for Ishtar

http://movies.groups.yahoo.com/group/ILoveIshtar/
http://www.waitingforishtar.com/
http://www.ishtarthemovie.com/
2/22/07 4:28 PM

Wade said...

Sorry to focus on one small element of your discussion, but I don't think that Heaven's Gate was inept at all, except that it failed financially. It was beautifully shot, and I think underappreciated.
2/22/07 9:41 PM

K. Silem Mohammad said...

Wade, I agree that Heaven's Gate is underappreciated, and "inept" was the wrong word to use in regard to it. In some ways it's brilliant on an almost visionary level. The first twenty or so minutes alone are unlike anything else I can remember seeing in an American film, the roller-skating scene is inspired, and as you say, the cinematography is awesome. All the same, I'm sorry, it goes seriously wrong at times. For long stretches it's totally inert, and not in an existentially evocative way either. The political subtext couldn't be less subtle if it were machine-gunned into the audience's skulls. And that old-age makeup at the end is straight off the K-Mart Halloween shelf (the same flaw mars Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America, which, come to think of it, shares a lot of the same weaknesses as Cimino's movie).
2/23/07 12:36 AM

Wade said...

Guilty pleasures for me are movies that obviously manipulate me in some way and yet I allow them tp do it. An example is School of Rock, which I'm embarrassed to say I loved. Of course, Jack Black made that movie.

Another example (of a really bad movie) that I loved a long time ago is Made in Heaven. This movie is godawful, but at the time it pulled all the right strings for me. I watched in HBO three or four times. I think I must have been lovesick or depressed or something at the time. The worst guilty pleasue I ever had.

By the way Kasey, maybe you should start a movie blog. You're getting a lot of action with these discussions.
2/23/07 8:32 AM

K. Silem Mohammad said...

School of Rock rocked! I'd say that one was actually a good movie. Richard Linklater got some flak for going totally commercial with it, but it's a well-constructed comedy. Also, it's a genre I'm a sucker for: the new, unorthodox teacher who comes in out of nowhere and blows everyone's mind. I guess I identify with it. Ar ar. Oh wow, no kidding, I guess I must have some total fantasy "To Sir with Love" self-image complex. But yeah, all those flicks where the new teacher/coach/priest/whatever shows up and shows how it's done ... love it.

I haven't seen Made in Heaven. There are several movies listed at IMDb with that title--do you mean the Alan Rudolph one with Tim Hutton and Kelly McGillis? I'll watch anything with Kelly McGillis in it. Hell, I'll watch anything. Obviously.

I think I have started a movie blog.
2/23/07 8:55 AM

Wade said...

Yeah the one with Tmothy Hutton and Kelly McGillis. don't watch it. It'll lower your opinion of me.
2/23/07 9:42 AM

Mike Young said...

Re: the "To Sir With Love" genre exercise love:

I'd be curious to know what you think of "Half-Nelson," which dismantles that "brill teacher" cliche. Okay, so it effectively replaces it with "innocent child saves the fuckup," but still.

Why the hell is no one talking about the possibility of Anchorman poetry in this comment space? To start: most of Anchorman's best lines came improvised. Maybe the first problem is that there is no poetry equivilant of Second City.
2/23/07 1:58 PM

Ray Davis said...

I can't think of any movie that I'd call a guilty pleasure -- in that form, my hedonism seems ungrudging. But reading the best work of John Berryman and James Wright feels compulsive, icky, and embarrassing in a way that must count. (Another example is when Matthew Sweet songs get stuck in my head and I can't come up with replacement lyrics fast enough.) Some day I suppose I'll figure out how to expand my critical range to include those experiences or narrow my taste to exclude them.
2/24/07 4:26 PM

kyle said...

yes to the half-nelson comment. interested in your take.

the problem you have with You've Got Mail is the problem i have with Shallow Hal. at the end of the movie, nothing is resolved or addressed, but the conflict that causes the movie simply persists into a sudden happiness. the delusion persists. that's not a movie, dammit!

this is the second straight comment i've left on your blog hating on jack black flicks, but honestly, i generally like his work.

i hate to say it, but in some weird way i find this blog's growing focus on cinema very satisfying.

keep saving young minds.
3/1/07 8:42 PM

Z. B. said...

I don't know, I find something convincing in the fact that You've Got Mail engages the faceless-corporation-devours-tiny-local cliche, but then willfully abandons it, there is no dilution of Hanks' conglomerate, or his stepping down to pull espressos (as we might've expected from the traditional, rather dismal socialist version of the movie).

It unabashedly triumphs saccharine over politics. Love (with AOL sound effects) conquers all, even self-righteous small-business vitriol. Of course it couldn't be more explicit on this point (that would have been too morbid for public consumption), but one can only imagine how great it would have been, if it could have been written to admit the Ryan character's change of heart, etc. And their conjugal empire of identical megastores.
3/5/07 8:27 AM

The Shootist




The Duke's last stand: John Wayne in The Shootist (dir. Don Siegel, 1976).

The last days of a gunfighter dying of cancer. A key element in the pathos is the setting, Carson City, Nevada, with its horseless carriages and telephone poles. As it readies itself at every corner for the future, Wayne's John Bernard Book readies himself for his own demise. Wayne gives a flawless performance, with able help from Lauren Bacall, Richard Boone, Jimmy Stewart, Scatman Crothers, Harry Morgan, and--sublimely--John Carradine as an undertaker ("The early worm gets the bird!"). Ron Howard slows things down a bit with his pipsqueaky self, and there are one or two overly American-Playhouse-type moments, but brother, we're talking about John Wayne acting out an elegy for himself. It is an honor to observe.

2.21.2007

Four Lists




Ten Movies I'll Watch When No One's Looking

Almost Heroes (dir. Christopher Guest, 1997)
Deep Blue Sea (dir. Renny Harlin, 1999)
Godzilla (dir. Roland Emmerich, 1998)
Kate & Leopold (dir. James Mangold, 2001)
The Money Pit (dir. Richard Benjamin, 1986)
My Best Friend's Wedding (dir. P.J. Hogan, 1997)
National Treasure (dir. Jon Turteltaub, 2006)
Overboard (dir. Garry Marshall, 1987)
Radio (dir. Michael Tollin, 2003)
Road House (dir. Rowdy Herrington, 1989)



Ten Movies I Stubbornly Contend Are Actually Really Good

A.I. (dir. Steven Spielberg, 2001)
Babe: Pig in the City (dir. George Miller, 1998)
The Cable Guy (dir. Ben Stiller, 1996)
Full Frontal (dir. Steven Soderbergh, 2002)
Jurassic Park III (dir. Joe Johnston, 2001)
Look Who's Talking (dir. Amy Heckerling, 1989)
Mars Attacks (dir. Tim Burton, 1996)
Mr. Wrong (dir. Nick Castle, 1996)
Pacific Heights (dir. John Schlesinger, 1990)
Vampire's Kiss (dir. Robert Bierman, 1989)



Ten Movies I Think Are Generally Overrated

American Beauty (dir. Sam Mendes, 1999)
Brazil (dir. Terry Gilliam, 1985)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (dir. Michel Gondry, 2004)
Harold and Maude (dir. Hal Ashby, 1971)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (dir. Milos Forman, 1975)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (dir. Steven Spielberg, 1981)
Se7en (dir. David Fincher, 1995)
The Squid and the Whale (dir. Noah Baumbach, 2005)
Thelma and Louise (dir. Ridley Scott, 1991)
The Usual Suspects (dir. Bryan Singer, 1995)



Ten Movies I Loathe with Every Fiber of My Being

A Beautiful Mind (dir. Ron Howard, 2001)
Eating (dir. Henry Jaglom, 1990)
Dead Poets Society (dir. Peter Weir, 1989)
Disclosure (dir. Barry Levinson, 1994)
Forrest Gump (dir. Robert Zemeckis, 1994)
Ghost (dir. Jerry Zucker, 1990)
Grand Canyon (dir. Lawrence Kasdan, 1991)
Moulin Rouge (dir. Baz Luhrmann, 2001)
Vanilla Sky (dir. Cameron Crowe, 2001)
You've Got Mail (dir. Nora Ephron, 1998)

-------

Addendum:

Old comment thread for this post:

CLAY BANES said...

karl rove directed forrest gump, right?

man. oh man. i saw eating.

man.
2/21/07 11:33 PM

Ivy said...

I also like AI.
2/22/07 2:45 AM

Alli Warren said...

patrick swayze in ghost? SWOON, kasey, SWOON.
2/22/07 11:46 AM

K. Silem Mohammad said...

I got nothing but love for the Swayz-Man. But Ghost is atrocious. The worst part is the cop-out wherein they have to represent Demi Moore's spirit inhabiting Whoopi Goldberg's body as ... Demi Moore! because otherwise Swayze would be shown kissing Goldberg instead of Moore, and that would be, well, not so commercially or racially viable. Also, on an unrelated level, both Moore and Goldberg just really bug me.
2/22/07 1:04 PM

Kevin Killian said...

You're crazy vis-a-vis Moulin Rouge. And Demi Moore too. It's great you're posting your opinions, Kasey. But you're crazy and Whoopi Goldberg is great, particularly in GHOST. However, I still love you.
2/22/07 2:58 PM

K. Silem Mohammad said...

Omigod, Kevin, that's freaky! I just posted about you!
2/22/07 3:27 PM

K. Silem Mohammad said...

Oh, and Kevin, I hope it counts for something that when I posted on Moulin Rouge a few weeks back, I singled out Kylie Minogue as its one worthwhile element.
2/22/07 3:30 PM

Kevin Killian said...

Kasey, an amazing coincidence.

Thanks for your kindness about my Oppen talk. The Poetry Center was going through an economy phase when they hired me to give the lecture, and I've never written anything so completely reviled, so it is an especial thrill for me that a) Fascicle revived it, thanks to Brent Cunningham and Tony Tost, and b) some people like it! I never thought this would happen, due to all the years of Oppen experts refusing to meet my gaze or shake my hand. "Ripeness is all," as Whoopi Goldberg intoned in the 1981 Valencia Rose production of KING LEAR. "Coincidence a close second."
2/22/07 6:23 PM

Wade said...

Kasey,

I loved Babe: Pig in the City. I bet it scared the crap out of kids though.

I generally agree with your loathing list. I loathed just the idea of Forrest Gump so much that I refused to see it. I still haven't.
2/22/07 7:48 PM

Across 110th Street




Across 110th Street (dir. Barry Shear, 1972).

Gritty, no-frills crime yarn set in Harlem. Plenty of particolored pimp suits and smirking gangsters, but the general tone is naturalistic rather than noir or funxploitation. Nicely avoids most of the cliches you'd expect, such as the white cop (Anthony Quinn) and the black cop (Yaphet Kotto) transcending the tensions between them to "bond." Actually, that one sort of happens, but just barely, at almost the last minute.

2.18.2007

Grey Gardens




Edith Bouvier Beale the younger and Edith Bouvier Beale the elder in Grey Gardens (dir. Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Ellen Hovde, & Muffie Meyer, 1975).

My response to this documentary is almost too personal to be of any critical use: it's so much like something that escaped from my own past and my genetic memory that I don't really know what to do with the emotions it evokes in me. The fleabag cats, the grime, the broken class connections: it's all a little too familiar. My mother's family's blood wasn't quite as blue as Big and Little Edie Beale's, but watching this gave me a queasy sense of some of what she must have experienced in her New England girlhood. Little Edie is ripe material for ironic art crowd iconicity, which was the fate this film secured for her, but she's also a touching study in human coping mechanisms: a would-be poet, one of the things she clings to is language, grasping at words that frequently float out of her grasp like the scarf she reports having lost off the second-story deck into the thick woods surrounding her house. She struggles to recite Frost's "The Road Less Taken," wrangles with the words "memorabilia" and "dispassionate," and joins her mother in attempts to remember the lyrics to old songs. I don't know what else to say. See this movie.

2.17.2007

Angels with Dirty Faces




Angels with Dirty Faces (dir. Michael Curtiz, 1938).

As slick and engrossing a work of Hollywood narrative as you'll find--and as shameless a piece of ideological manipulation. On the other hand, it's possible to read the film perversely as a cynical portrait of piety gone rancid: Pat O'Brien's Father Connolly is not only a proto-Ward-Cleaver figure who prefaces every other sentence with a mawkish "you see," he's ultimately reponsible for orchestrating a grossly hypocritical moral sham in the name of redemption. He robs a dying man of his dignity by compelling him to act out a lie, and then he lies himself. To kids.

Pursued




Teresa Wright in Pursued (dir. Raoul Walsh, 1947).

A noirish frontier melodrama with a robust Max Steiner score and some pointedly psychoanalytic elements (recurring flashbacks of a murderous primal scene, undertones of pseudo-incest, lots of symbols). What make it more than just pretty good are the ominous rock outcroppings, solemn skyscapes, haunted rustic shadows, and other such atmospheric intimations of fatalism--intimations that are not quite fully honored by the arc of the plot, but are nevertheless quite affecting. Robert Mitchum riding alone in the hills sitting up real straight on his horse singing "The Streets of Laredo" is like a little sneak preview of his role eight years later as the villainous preacher in Night of the Hunter. Wright's then-husband Niven Busch wrote the screenplay. With Judith Anderson, Dean Jagger, Alan Hale, and Harry Carey, Jr.

2.15.2007

Marked Woman




Ladies of the night: Isabel Jewell, Mayo Methot, and Lola Lane in Marked Woman (dir. Lloyd Bacon, 1937).

Tough B-girl Bette Davis testifies against the mob with the help of bland good-guy attorney Humphrey Bogart. "Ripped from the headlines" surrounding the Lucky Luciano trial. The film has a nice look (love those swirling thirties montage sequences full of glittering cocktail glasses and laughing drunks in tuxes), and Davis is swell.

Say Anything...




John Mahoney in Say Anything... (dir. Cameron Crowe, 1989).

What raises this film a notch above other late eighties seriocomic teen romances is the restrained but consistent weltuntergangstimmung that coasts beneath its calculated bittersweetness like a big gray shark. Well, maybe not that restrained: at one point John Cusack leaves a phone message in which he suggests that one possible factor in his temporary breakup with Ione Skye is the possibility that "the world is a blur of food and sex and spectacle and everyone is just hurtling towards Necropolis." So there's that. But the ending would have been so much better without the ding.

2.14.2007

Two-Minute Warning




Two-Minute Warning (dir. Larry Peerce, 1976).

This was the apotheosis of seventies disaster films, the one whose concept freaked out prospective viewers so much they didn't go see it: a sniper at a football game in the LA Memorial Coliseum. I know, go figure. But maybe what did it in was early word of mouth that the violence in the film was a little too realistic: it's kind of like watching TV news footage. Actually, the look and texture of the film is a lot like George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, from roughly the same era. The least compelling parts are the parts that are exactly like every other disaster flick--the parts where the various members of the all-star cast play out their little subplots interminably until all hell breaks loose and those subplots become irrelevant. Gena Rowlands has some photogenic moments as the underappreciated girlfriend of car salesman David Jansen, and John Cassavetes badasses through his role as a SWAT team commander. Walter Pidgeon as a dapper old pickpocket is onscreen hardly at all.

--------

Addendum:

Lanny Quarles writes:
thinking about
the possibilities of the
stadium is endlessly diverting

call method | stadium
call tag | retort
call subtag | social alchemy

the stadium retort locates
a vision of molarity / granularity
which is consonant with a mythic
reality

from the shape of the stadium itself recapitulating the limbic system. From wikipedia's entry on hypergraphia:

Several different regions of the brain govern the act of writing. The physical movement of the hand is controlled by the cerebral cortex which comprises part of the outer layer of the brain. The drive to write, on the other hand, is controlled by the limbic system, a ring-shaped cluster of cells deeply buried in the cortex which governs emotion, affiliated instincts and inspiration and is said to regulate the human being's need for communication. Words and ideas are cognized and understood by the temporal lobes behind the ears, and these temporal lobes are connected to the limbic system. Ideas are organized and edited in the frontal lobe of the brain.

So desu ka...


2.13.2007

Dodge City




Ann Sheridan earning her third billing in Dodge City (dir. Michael Curtiz, 1939).

Early technicolor horsefeathers with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Haviland. The main inspiration for Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles. It looks more like a musical than a western, and when Ann Sheridan is singing, it briefly becomes that missed opportunity (she gets third billing, but is in only a small handful of scenes, and has next to no dialogue). Flynn might be even more exaggeratedly dandyish than Gene Wilder.

2.11.2007

Libeled Lady




Myrna Loy in Libeled Lady (dir. Jack Conway, 1936).

Primo screwball antics from Loy, William Powell, and especially Jean Harlow, who seems somehow possessed of a gracefully fluid sensuousness and out of control of her body at the same time. Sometimes her arms twitch like the Bride of Frankenstein for no apparent reason, as though she were overcome with random nervous energy. Spencer Tracy's character is a little short-changed: he doesn't have enough of a share in the funny business, and he's just not that sympathetic. Despite this, the film as a whole is superior entertainment.

2.10.2007

The Mechanic




Jill Ireland and Charles Bronson in The Mechanic (dir. Michael Winner, 1972).

This movie clips along like a good cheap paperback. It's another one of those films where the implied level of background complexity is higher than anything that can be accommodated by the actual story, and as a result the whole thing takes on a compelling illusion of narrative (and psychological) depth. At the same time, it's all very winningly cheesy in that way of the early seventies pulp crime potboiler. Probably Bronson's best acting work--which is to say that the part calls for someone with the emotional range of a dormant cobra. Jan-Michael Vincent is good too as the cocky apprentice killer: knowingly or not, he and director Michael Winner manage to retain some of the homoerotic element that reportedly had to be written out of of the original script in order for Bronson to agree to do the picture. Several appealing small parts, including some virtuoso lip-biting by Keenan Wynn. The brief scene with Jill Ireland depicted above is a small triumph of bad acting disguised as bad acting (if you've seen it, you know what I mean).

2.03.2007

Lemming




Charlotte Rampling and Laurent Lucas in Lemming (dir. Dominik Moll, 2005).

Tao Lin writes:
i liked lemming

it should have ended when the husband said, 'i think it's a kind of hamster'

and then have the screen say 'LEMMING'