Sunday, October 26, 2008
In a sense all movies are about movie-making. Especially movies made by the movie-mad. So maybe the kill - when the movie goes into the red - is the representation of Hitchcock's mighty peak of visual invention and style. And the follow-up detection by Keith Gordon, playing a character who, like teenage De Palma, builds computers for his science fair and toys with cameras and voyeurism; is like De Palma's attempt to cope with and understand his own fascination with the magic. And his teaming with Nancy Allen (Mrs. De Palma in real life) is kind of like entering into a gender-balanced collaboration to explore these themes.
As De Palma says in this incredible interview, he is a visual stylist and that's the first and foremost motivator of his work. It's easy to understand why people would take the murder personally, since the filmmaker is thought to build a doll house that delights him. The furor is a furor against De Palma for refusing to be god or a moralist. Is the death punishment for transgressing against marriage and family, against seeking fullness and joy? It would be hard to find other expressions of that in De Palma's work so I doubt it. Can we take him at his word when he says that he prefers watching women on the screen and finds the sight of a woman in peril more emotionally engaging than the sight of a man in peril? Unless a filmmaker is as skillful at obfuscating these kinds of tensions by creating a harmonic framework of other tensions around them, he or she is walking a long wire. That high-wire act is yet another source of the intricately engineered tension of DRESSED TO KILL.
His bisecting of the frame, either with a true split screen, or with a subtly artificial split-diopter (allowing foreground and background to stay in sharp focus) replicates both the split in Caine's personality and in the filmmakers perspective, as does the very active shade between point of view and omniscient views of the action. Here De Palma shows his mastery of Hitchcock's greatest lesson - never let them go. In a suspense film, the screw shold be kept turning. And this is a screwed and chopped suspense film.
I was very happy to hear from Bryan Poyser of the Austin Film Society that AFS will have an Early De Palma Essential Cinema series in the spring. It will stretch from GREETINGS through CARRIE and I'm pretty pumped up about it. Also, if you haven't seen PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, it should be your Halloween night movie, no doubt about it.
Next week (this week?) we'll have the incredible Rosalba Neri (remember how she steals the show in 99 WOMEN?) in THE DEVIL'S WEDDING NIGHT. It is a triumphantly Euroambient film and Neri is like a goddess or a celestial phenomenon. See it!
Posted by Lars Nilsen at 1:25 PM
Saturday, October 18, 2008
This week we'll be watching one of my favorite films by one of my favorite filmmakers: Brian De Palma's DRESSED TO KILL. I still remember the controversy it caused. I saw it at Earl Vanderheyden's house (his parents had Showtime and mine had HBO, it was really either/or back then) and thought it was the scariest, most intense thing I'd ever seen. I didn't see it again until 6 or 7 years ago and was struck by how funny it is and how much the story of Keith Gordon's investigation parallels the filmmaking process itself, and his obsession with getting to the heart of a Hitchcockian murder recalls De Palma's own celebrated status as the Hitch of the '70s and '80s - a constructor of shock machines, but also a reverse-engineer of shock. It's a really good film and you want to see this on the big screen if you're here. It's still controversial and doesn't get dragged out (heh heh) for a lot of theatrical screenings.
Posted by Lars Nilsen at 12:38 PM
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Sunday, October 5, 2008
NOV 5, MIDNIGHT, FREE, DIR. AL ADAMSON, 1978, 35MM, 90 MIN, R
AKA DEATH DIMENSION. If you have a medical condition that makes it unwise for you to laugh your ass off for an hour and a half, then we urge you: PLEASE STAY HOME. Because FREEZE BOMB could be your grim reaper. This Al Adamson Bond ripoff may well be the worst action movie ever made not starring a chimp, a midget or Lorenzo Lamas. Jim "Black Belt Jones" Kelly and Myron Bruce Lee (Myron?) are the kung fu fighting heroes out to stop a supervillain named The Pig from developing the "freeze bomb" which turns victims into ridiculous looking snowmen. Along the way Kelly and Lee have to deal with various double-dealers and scumbags who are also after the secret formula. With George Lazenby, Aldo Ray, Terry Moore, and Harold "Oddjob" Sakata as The Pig. Oh yeah, there's a mean-ass snapping turtle too. If you miss this one you better have a doctor's note. For real. (Lars)
TARZANA THE WILD GIRL
NOV 12, MIDNIGHT, FREE, DIR. GUIDO MALATESTA, 1969, 35MM, 87 MIN, R
How do you know when you're a total hardcore freakazoid case? One very good indicator might be: you're out late on a Wednesday night watching an Italian naked jungle girl movie in a theater full of sex maniacs. That might be a tip-off. And what an Italian jungle girl movie! In fact we'd like to propose that if you only watch one jungle girl movie this year, let it be TARZANA, THE WILD GIRL. Now, if there's another movie genre that has as little regard for logic, continuity, and plain common sense as the jungle girl movie I don't know what it is. But when the Italians get their hands on it...oh boy. Any little bit of coherence that Hollywood may have inadvertently left intact is flushed down the commode and the movie is free to deliver all those delicious jungle girl goods: gorgeous topless jungle girl -- CHECK; listless drunken chimp -- CHECK; grainy mismatched stock footage -- CHECK; wild "native" dancing -- CHECK; Weird Wednesday Nirvana -- CHECK! Starring Yugoslavian beauty Femi Benussi as Tarzana and a whole lot of other people you've never heard of. Hot damn! (Lars)
NOV 19, MIDNIGHT, FREE, DIR. JOHN BOORMAN, 1967, 35MM, 92 MIN, NR
It's hard to believe this surrealist nut-hammer of a movie was made at all but we're so glad it was. Lee Marvin, probably the coolest man ever to put fist to face, stars as the last of the "hands-on" gangsters. When he's double-crossed and robbed of $93,000 by his wife and best friend on the orders of the big bosses, he goes on what may be the greatest (and certainly the most colorful) rampage of all time. He breaks down door after door and puts his business in the street - along with his clever catch-phrase, "I want my money back." The problem is, the new breed of criminals are all organization men who hide behind desks and tax shelters. Nobody can believe he's that bent out of shape over a measly 93 grand but he's a man who lives by a code and he won't stop until he gets what's his. Sounds good huh? Now factor in the fact that the movie is relentlessly experimental, full of fragmented narrative devices and a bizarre primary color scheme that's as insane as it is brilliant. It was billed as a pop art gangster movie and it's certainly a feast for the eyes but at heart it's a primal showcase for the walking (and walking and walking) spirit of vengeance played by the great Lee Marvin. With Angie Dickinson at her most beautiful - the scene where she tries to beat up Lee Marvin is unforgettable. Also stars slimy John Vernon, Caroll O'Connor and Keenan Wynn as Hamlet's father. Miss this one on the big screen and you have fucked up, Charlie. (Lars)
NOV 26, MIDNIGHT, FREE, DIR. THEODORE GERSHUNY, 1973, 35MM, 89 MIN, R
Atmospheric New York psychosexual thriller starring the great Mary Woronov and directed by her then-husband Ted Gershuny. Mary and Ted made several films together and all of them are nasty little things, full of mind-games, kink, and hateful, argumentative characters who live to screw over everyone in sight. This is the best of their collaborations. It takes place in the soft white underbelly of the New York porn industry. A scumbag porno producer accidentally (?) shoots his biggest star while she fellates his revolver and enlists his lesbian enforcer (Woronov) to help him cover up the crime and find a new star. She complies with vigor, and even has a long sex scene with the new starlet (a high point of the movie.) It's a tense, sick melodrama full of shifting allegiances, revenge, and triple-crosses. Also starring busy Lynn Lowry (SHIVERS, I DRINK YOUR BLOOD) and a bunch of the Warhol stock company. Oliver Stone was an associate producer but was unable to fuck up this movie. (Lars)
DEC 3, MIDNIGHT, FREE, DIR. ARTHUR MARKS, 1973, 35MM, 105 MIN, R
The thinnest plotline imaginable (two foxy sisters hit the road after killing their lecherous stepfather) is pushed as far as it can go. And I mean AS FAR AS IT CAN GO. As tasteless as it is fun, and it's a fuckin' blast. If you thought THE CANDY SNATCHERS was horrifying and offensive, you might want to sit this one out. If, on the other hand, you thought THE CANDY SNATCHERS was a religious experience beamed down directly from the brain of almighty God for the benefit of humankind -- well, then you might want to wear a diaper for BONNIE'S KIDS, 'cause you're gonna SHIT! A slam-bang frontal assault of sleaze. This will be one of the greatest moviegoing experiences of your life. Mark my words. (Lars)
DEC 10, MIDNIGHT, FREE, DIR. UMBERTO LENZI, 1971, 35MM, 90 MIN, R
Leave it to Italian genre king Umberto Lenzi, whose decadent, pessimistic master stroke PARANOIA wowed Weird Wednesday audiences earlier this year, to find the worm in the big juicy apple of seventies free love and permissiveness. In PARANOIA a beautiful older woman was terrorized in her home by a young couple leading to madness, senseless violence and death. This time it's the older woman (the great Greek actress Irene Papas) who gets the upper hand as she sets a trap for two beautiful young Brits (Ray Lovelock and Ornella Muti), who have been funding a lawless rampage across Europe by making amateur porn and selling it as they go. Like all the best Lenzi films, DIRTY PICTURES is full-blooded in its both its sleaze and cinematic invention. (Lars)
WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA
DEC 17, MIDNIGHT, FREE, DIR. MATT CIMBER, 1976, 35MM, 88 MIN, R
A perfect illustration of the sort of freedom filmmakers could have in the arena of low-budget films. This ragingly weird movie about a waitress' psychological disintegration into castration mania could certainly have never been made in a Hollywood studio context and it's a gigantic anomaly even among drive-in films. Millie Perkins (THE SHOOTING, DIARY OF ANNE FRANK) plays the tormented woman whose repressed memories of childhood abuse begin to surface in some pretty undesirable ways, compelling her to pick up a razor and go after some of the men she sees on TV everyday. While it was marketed (when it was marketed at all) as a psychotic slasher film, it has as much REPULSION and PERSONA in it as PSYCHO. Written by Robert Thom (writer of WILD IN THE STREETS and Perkins' husband) and directed by the underrated Matt Cimber (THE BLACK SIX, HUNDRA). An unforgettable moviegoing experience. (Lars)
MAGIC CHRISTMAS TREE
DEC 24, MIDNIGHT, FREE, DIR. RICHARD PARRISH, 1964, 35MM, 60 MIN, G
Special seasonal reprise of the Christmas-killing hit! Here it is: the evil holiday movie we’ve all secretly been waiting for. It made its producers wealthy men and turned a generation of children into santaphobic sociopaths. We are still paying the cost. It’s a very strange film and we’re not sure why anyone would make it, but two words come to mind: Malicious Intent. Why else would the young hero be abducted by a witch and forced to uh, plant Satan’s magic seed in his backyard? The seed grows into a tree that gives him three wishes. Then the kid abducts Santa Claus, straps him to a chair and abuses him until he gets all the toys in the world. Plus there’s a long race between a lawnmower and a turtle and more tomfoolery presided over by the powers of Darkness, including the appearance of a giant who says inappropriate things. We cannot be held responsible for any lasting trauma. (Lars)
Speaking of Mary Woronov, here she is going on the attack against Warhol superstar International Velvet:
Posted by Lars Nilsen at 2:23 PM
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Thanks to everyone who showed up for the epochal Joe Sarno double feature of two films that were considered lost just a short while ago. Joe himself, slower in speech but still sharp in his 87th year shared some of his priceless insights about film-making, transferring his vision to the screen on a tight schedule and with a mixed bag of performers and the psychological underpinnings of his very pro-female sex films.
Here's some video of his appearance. Thanks to Anne for filming:
Here's some video of his appearance. Thanks to Anne for filming:
Posted by Lars Nilsen at 2:54 PM