I watched a couple of movies in quick succession this weekend, and when I was through with the second, I realized they had a lot more in common than I was aware of when I chose them pretty much at random from a pile of DVDs I borrowed from the library. For starters, they’re both Criterion releases: Paul Bartel‘s 1982 Eating Raoul and Samuel Fuller‘s 1964 . Though the former is a sophisticated (albeit at times purposely ludicrous) black comedy and the latter on the surface a lurid exploitation picture, the two also share several central themes: innocence vs. experience, sexual kinkiness and moral hypocrisy, the commodification of the body and desire, violence as a means to an end, the failures of capitalism and more. They would make an excellent double bill for a film class or art house cinema, or just a lively evening with friends. Continue reading
Every once in a while (in truth, probably a little more often than the average person), I will watch two movies in one sitting. Thanks to Netflix instant streaming and my handy-dandy Blue-Ray player with built-in wi-fi, I am able to select two movies almost at random to watch on my TV anytime. Of course, if it were truly random, the potential list would include every film ever made and I wouldn’t have any choice in either of them. That would be an interesting experiment, indeed. But since I do have a say in the matter, I pick films from my bloated queue (usually), which means I must have a pre-existing interest in any given component of any given “random” double feature.
Last night, the films I chose were Joseph L. Mankiewicz‘s 1954 Hollywood melodrama The Barefoot Contessa, and Vittorio De Sica‘s 1948 Italian neorealist classic Ladri di Biciclette. Although made within a few years of each other and each taking place at least partly in Italy, the movies are worlds apart in theme, look and sensibility. It may even seem unfair to compare them, like comparing apples and clothes hangers. But I found this pairing surprisingly useful in clarifying some of my personal cinematic tastes. Readers of this blog will no doubt have different takes and tastes. I’d be interested to hear what you think. Continue reading
I went international with my movie-viewing this weekend. I viewed films, all made between 2001 and 2010, from Iran, France, Thailand and Korea. All of these are available to stream instantly on Netflix, and though, I have reservations about two of them, I recommend them all anyway. Following are my caspule reviews: Continue reading
A few weeks ago, after reading an obituary of underground film legend George Kuchar in the New York Times, I watched Jennifer M. Kroot‘s 2009 documentary It Came from Kuchar, a very enjoyable film in its own right, about the delightfully weird hand-made movies of George and his twin brother Michael. The Kuchars of the Bronx made over-the-top satires with their friends and family on, first, a wind-up action DeJur 8mm camera (the kind I loved making films with as a kid) and then a Bolex 16mm (the kind I always wished I had). Unlike their underground peers Andy Warhol or Kenneth Anger, the Kuchar’s were primarily interested in Hollywood-style narrative (though their movies are far stranger than anything Hollywood could ever dream up) and were heavily influenced in particular by Douglas Sirk, whose melodramas they watched over and over at local movie houses.
From my days of interest in New German cinema, I knew Rainer Werner Fassbinder was also a Sirk fanatic, and I was intrigued by the homages he paid Sirk in films like Lola and Veronika Voss–not the narrative influence so much as the visual influence, the use of primary color light gels and art design components to telegraph emotion. These visuals also clearly appealed to the Kuchars. In It Came from Kuchar, you can see that George was still practicing Sirk-style lighting in his film classes at San Francisco Art Institute. (Sins of the Fleshapoids, which is available in multipart on YouTube, is a good example of an original Kuchar epic employing Sirk-inspired lighting techniques.)
I only knew about Sirk as an auteur worth investigating from my interest in Fassbinder. So far as I know, I had never seen a Sirk until just the other night. It was the Kuchar films that piqued my interest anew, so when I saw Imitation of Life available on Netflix, I queued it up. By coincidence, my own twin brother Erik recommended I see the remake of Philip Yordan’s Anna Lucasta (directed by Arthur Laven) with Eartha Kitt and Sammy Davis Jr just that day, so when Imitation of Life was over, I went right into Anna Lucasta, which is also available for instant streaming on Netflix. They make for an interesting double feature. Continue reading
I wasn’t expecting to watch either Nagisa Oshima’s Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983) or Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Doulos (1962) last night. Almost randomly, I selected each just seconds before watching them from my Netflix instant watch list, where both had been sitting for perhaps a year or possibly more. Each made a surprisingly provocative complement to the other on my random double feature bill. Continue reading