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The Strangeness That Is Jacques Demy’s Model Shop
11.04.2009
03:38 pm

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I’m always fascinated when the great European directors come to work in America.  Zabriskie Point, while a hands-down favorite of mine anyway, in my eyes, almost succeeds more as a relative failure because there’s something poignant about Michelangelo Antonioni‘s need to make sense of a landscape more disjointed than Rome (L’Eclisse), more baffling than North Africa (The Passenger), and possibly more empty than ‘60s London (Blow-Up).  Antonioni might not have succeeded in making sense of countercultural America, but there’s something undeniably beautiful about his attempt.

Jacques Demy‘s nearly forgotten film, Model Shop, is another example of a perceived failure that somehow manages to succeed all the more so for it.  Released, briefly, by Columbia Pictures in ‘69, when Demy was still basking in the international glow of his Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Model Shop stars Gary Lockwood as a Vietnam-dreading drifter who starts trailing around Los Angeles Anouk Aimee’s older French woman (well, who wouldn’t?!)  Thus begins a hall-of-mirrors roundelay that, despite it’s strained dialogue and meandering plot, comes off as much a love letter to Los Angeles as it does to melancholy romance.
 
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And while Model Shop flirts with themes of the “universal condition,” it’s also wonderful to see (as it is in Don’t Make Waves or Play It As It Lays) what the city looked like back then, less burdened as it was by cars, noise, and signage.  A (typically) colorful clip from Model Shop follows below:

 
Bonus: Harrison Ford’s Model Shop Screen Test

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment
Coming Soon: Mohammed, The Movie
11.02.2009
06:00 pm

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No word yet if, as was the case with his prior successes, producer Barrie Osborne (The Matrix, The Lord Of The Rings) plans to build a trilogy around the Prophet Mohammed.  I’m guessing, though, that even a stand-alone film will attract its share of uproar:

Qatari media company Al Noor Holdings used Sunday’s closing of the Doha Tribeca Film Festival to announce its launch into the movie biz with a $150 million feature about the Prophet Mohammed, to be produced by Barrie Osborne.  Osborne and Al Noor execs are in discussions with a number of studios, distributors and ten-percenteries about boarding the English-language project.

Al Noor thus becomes the latest link between Hollywood and the Mideast, where companies are anxious to provide work for local filmmakers and to offer a more positive portrayal of Islam around the world.  Muslim cleric and TV personality Sheik Yousef al-Qaradawi will serve as a technical consultant.  “He was a profound genius who founded a religion whose name in Islam signifies peace and reconciliation,” Osborne said. “This is what our film will aspire to do.”

And while the film will cover the years from his birth to his death, a Mohammed biopic will prove especially tricky considering the Prophet himself cannot be in it.  In accordance with Islamic law, neither Mohammed nor direct members of his family can be visually depicted.

In Variety: Al Noor Sets Mohammed Feature

 

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment
The Sweet Smell of Success: 50s Noir-Nasty Win
11.02.2009
03:18 pm

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The Sweet Smell of Success is one of the great screenplays, and films, of all time. It’s an absolutely vicious piece of work about a powerful New York gossip columnist (Burt Lancaster) and a sleazy impresario who spends the film trying to scrape his way into his good graces (Tony Curtis, in a rare villainous turn). The level of 50s slime out-does anything in “Mad Men” and the dialogue cuts with every nasty, New-York-Overdrive quip. Plot summary follows:

A classic of the late 1950s, this film looks at the string-pulling behind-the-scenes action between desperate press agent Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) and the ultimate power broker in that long-ago show-biz Manhattan: gossip columnist J.J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster). Written by Ernest Lehman and Clifford Odets (who based the Hunsecker character on the similarly brutal and power-mad Walter Winchell), the film follows Falco’s attempts to promote a client through Hunsecker’s column—until he is forced to make a deal with the devil and help Hunsecker ruin a jazz musician who has the nerve to date Hunsecker’s sister. Director Alexander MacKendrick and cinematographer James Wong Howe, shooting on location mostly at night, capture this New York demimonde in silky black and white, in which neon and shadows share a scarily symbiotic relationship—a near-match for the poisonous give-and-take between the edgy Curtis and the dismissive Lancaster.

The screenplay by Odets and Lehman is one of the most incredible pieces of writing I’ve ever read/viewed, surpassing, perhaps, even classics of nasty dialogue (and I’ll go out on a limb here) like The Lion in Winter and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? There’s just no comparison to any other film and I think this is the ultimate flick for ANYBODY who works in the media. Check out the trailer below to see what I mean.

(Amazon: The Sweet Smell of Success)

Posted by Jason Louv | Leave a comment
William Klein’s Mister Freedom
10.29.2009
01:04 am

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Mister Freedom is a 1969 satire directed by expat American fashion photographer William Klein. It stars French actress Delphne Seyrig (who was also in Day of the Jackal). Donald Pleasence and Serge Gainsbourg have supporting roles and May 1968 student rebel-rouser Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Simone Signoret and Yves Montand have uncredited cameos.
 
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Mister Freedom concerns a loutish, jingoistic American superhero, a self-righteous idiot run amok, who’s willing to destroy France in order to save it from the Ruskies and Chinamen. Obviously this is a parody of American foreign policy of the Vietnam era, but what’s so utterly uncanny about the film is how well it predicts the Bush era. It’s incredible! Watch a clip and see if you agree:
 

 

 
Beck made a “tribute” to Mister Freedom with his Sexx Laws video and the Japanese pop duo Pizzicato 5 made an homage to the film with their Sister Freedom Tapes EP.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The Coming Collapse With Michael Ruppert
10.28.2009
01:24 pm

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Fans of Chris Smith (American Movie, The Yes Men) can look forward to the indie director’s upcoming release, Collapse.  In it, Smith gives the Errol Morris treatment to Michael Ruppert, the one-time cop turned investigative journalist.

Here’s what Apple’s Trailer site has to say about Collapse which, curiously, is listed as both a documentary and a horror film (but then again, if you know about Ruppert, maybe it’s not so curious at all):

Americans generally like to hear good news. They like to believe that a new President will right old wrongs, that clean energy will replace dirty oil, and that fresh thinking will set the economy straight.  American pundits tend to restrain their pessimism and to hope for the best.  But is anyone prepared for the worst?  Michael Ruppert is a different kind of American.  He predicted the current financial crisis in his self-published newsletter ?

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment
Inside The Private World Of Ingmar Bergman
10.27.2009
08:14 pm

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Fascinating story in this month’s W about the late filmmaker Ingmar Bergman‘s private retreat on the Swedish island of

The Amazing Animated Adventures Of Lotte Reiniger
10.27.2009
12:17 am

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Next month, as part of MOMA‘s “To Save And Project” festival devoted to newly restored films, American artist Kara Walker will introduce a new print of Lotte Reiniger‘s magnificent 1926 film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, the oldest surviving animated feature film on record.

If you’ve never seen Walker’s work up close—and you should—it bears a striking resemblance to that of the German animator.  Born in Berlin in 1899, Reiniger developed an early fascination with silhouette puppetry and the films of

SMart: Kevin Smith-Themed Art Show
10.25.2009
06:58 pm

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“Brokeback Island” by Dave MacDowell
 
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“Fat Kenickie” by Danielle Rizzolo
 
Here’s an amusing look at a Kevin Smith-themed art show held at Gallery Nineteen Eighty Eight in Los Angeles. More paintings here.
 
(via Nerdcore)

 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
The Filipino Batman
10.24.2009
10:43 pm

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Hundreds of thousands have thrilled to the Indian Superman, but fewer have seen the Filipino Batman…

Batman en Robin is a Bat-spoof made in the Philippines in 1993. It stars comedian Joey de Leon and his son Keempee de Leon. The Penguin-character is called Chu-p-a-enguin, which literally means “Blowjob-guin” in Spanglish. There are musical numbers—why not?—and Wonder Woman makes an appearance. A midget Spiderman, too. And check out the Joker!

In the final scene, the cast does a nutty cover version of At The Hop with lyrics like “Let’s be good of blood, Let’s be good of heart, Let’s be afraid of God, Let’s believe in LOVE!”
 

 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Phantasm: 30 Years Of Ball-Grabbing Fun
10.23.2009
06:05 pm

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The LA Times recently noted the 30th birthday of Phantasm, the first entry in director Don Coscarelli‘s quartet of Phantasm horror films.  Scraped together from a meager budget, and shot and edited over a period of roughly 20 months, Phantasm and its sequels continue to suck me in with a frequency that I’m sure wreaks havoc with whatever Netflix algorithm crunches out the recommendations linking those films to L’Eclisse.

For Phantasm newbies here’s the story (the bare bones, so to speak), per its official film site:

Michael Baldwin and Bill Thornbury star as two brothers who discover that their local mortuary hides a legion of hooded killer dwarf-creatures, a flying silver sphere of death, and is home to the sinister mortician known only as the Tall Man.  This nefarious undertaker (with an iconic performance by Angus Scrimm) enslaves the souls of the damned and in the process his character has entered the pantheon of classic horror villains.

Sounds kicky, right?  What the synopsis leaves out, though—and what no synopsis could possibly accommodate—is precisely that elusive, unquantifiable element that makes the Phantasm films, in my eyes, so haunting.  Whether due to exigencies of budget or imagination, the logic these films operate under is so far out and unpredictable, the effect is like watching a 6-hour nightmare unspool before your eyeballs. 

How is one supposed to reconcile, exactly, hooded dwarves, funeral homes, and flying, eyeball-gouging orbs?  Um, I’m not sure you can, really (believe me, I’ve tried!).  And as the quartet progresses, the entire Phantasm mythology assumes ever-more grand and baroque dimensions.  For example…

SPOILER ALERT: About those dwarves?  Oh, they’re ultimately destined for another planet.  Those flying silver balls?  They’re storage containers for the souls of the recently departed.  END SPOILERS.

Contrast that inability to reconcile so many dreamy, disparate elements with the boringly formulaic, teenage-slashing rhythms of Freddy and Jason, and you can begin to understand how I consider Don Coscarelli more in league with Suspiria-meister Dario Argento, than the Wes Craven of Scream and Elm Street.

And, much like Argento, whose capacity for creative bloodletting seems undiminshed by time, Coscarelli continues to direct.  His last film, the cult-fave Bubba Ho-Tep, starred the always great Ossie Davis and Bruce Campbell.  The trailer for the original Phantasm follows below:

 
In the LA Times: Happy Birthday, Tall Man! “Phantasm” Turns 30

Official Phantasm Site

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment
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