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The Lumiere Brothers’ Danse Serpentine
09.24.2009
02:58 pm
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Lovely silent film gem from 1896:

Early filmmakers loved dancers.  I can’t locate the source of this film, but iterations of the Serpentine Dance were particular favorites of both Thomas Edison and the Lumiere Brothers.  Inspired by dancer Loie Fuller’s famed skirt dances, in which colored lights projected onto her billowing garments, this film (and others like it) was hand-tinted to achieve similar affects.  Fuller’s solo was mesmerizing, and her copycat film subjects no less so.

(Via Ubu)

Posted by Bradley Novicoff
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09.24.2009
02:58 pm
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Death Bed: The Bed That Eats People
09.23.2009
05:24 pm
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Many people who have come by the dubious charms of bizarro cult movie Death Bed: The Bed that Eats (1977) got there by way of Patton Oswalt’s classic stand-up routine about the film. You hear him rant about it and you just have to see it. I mean, you pretty much know from the title if you’re going to enjoy this or not, don’t you?

Cribbed from its Wikipedia entry:

A large, black, four-poster bed, possessed by a demon, is passed from owner to owner. The Demon was a tree, who became a breeze and seemingly fell in love with a woman he blew past. The demon then took human form and conjured up a bed. While he was making love with the woman she died and his eyes bled onto the bed, causing it to become possessed. Those who come into contact with the bed are frequently consumed by it (victims are pulled into what is apparently a large chamber of digestive fluids beneath the sheets). The bed demonstrates a malevolent intelligence as well as some psychokinetic and limited telepathic abilities to manipulate dreams.

A running commentary or chorus is supplied by the ghost ?

Posted by Richard Metzger
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09.23.2009
05:24 pm
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The Ekmek Is Mine!  A Look At “Seytan,” Turkey’s Frame-By-Frame Exorcist Rip-Off
09.21.2009
10:00 am
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Gus Van Sant‘s experiment from ‘99 where he essentially served up a Xerox of Hitchcock’s Psycho has nothing on the ongoing cinematic “homaging” going down in Turkey.  Cinefamily goes so far as to declare the country,

the wild, wild Middle East of mondo macabro.  Here you find the outlying reaches of world exploitation, where the heroes are macho men who can beat you up with just their moustaches, and the copyright infringement flows as freely as the currents of the Bosphorus River.  From the wholesale plundering of battle footage from American sci-fi smash hits (with which to mash into their own space operas), to the endless cavalcade of scene-for-scene, shot-for-shot, unauthorized remakes (Turkish Exorcist, Turkish Death Wish, Turkish Young Frankenstein)—the bandits of Turkish cinema were unstoppable.  These films were lawless, shameless, and hilarious.  Infinite ambition and infinitesimal budgets lead to cheap remakes that resemble a high school theater version of Apocalypse Now; to make up for their poverty, these filmmakers upped the sadism, mayhem, and titillation to their tastes and our delight.

Well, thanks to YouTube, you can now watch Seytan—The Turkish Exorcist—in 14 soup-spewing installments.  I’m pretty sure they’re all posted, but if you can’t find ‘em all, even casual fans of William Friedkin’s Exorcist will have no trouble spotting the devil in Ms. G?ɬ

Posted by Bradley Novicoff
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09.21.2009
10:00 am
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Her So-Called Rotten Life: Susan Tyrrell
09.18.2009
03:11 pm
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Susan Tyrrell is one of the great scene stealers of American cinema. It doesn’t matter who she’s (supposedly) sharing the screen with, all eyes will be on Tyrrell. Susan Tyrrell possesses a unique charisma, let’s just say, and if I had to pick my favorite actress, I might have to say it’s her (maybe tied with Ruth Gordon). She’s great in Andy Warhol’s Bad, Big Top Pee-wee and Crybaby. Her role as Oma the sad barfly in John Huston’s Fat City saw her nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and who could forget her as tough as nails lesbian, Solly Mosler, the den-mother to a group of transvestite prostitutes in the Angel movies? No one plays a tough, psychotic bitch better than Tyrell and I mean no one.

 

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But if you want to see Susan Tyrrell really cut loose and at her most, well, Susan Tyrrellish, you have to see her in her greatest role, as jealous Queen Mona in Richard Elfman’s cult classic, Forbidden Zone. Here she is in her berserk performance of “Witches Egg,” a song she also wrote (I always put this on mixed CDs):

 

 

Sadly due to a rare blood clotting disease,Tyrrell had to have both of her legs amputated. She’s still acting, playing a fortune teller in Bob Dylan and Larry Charles’ surreal Armed and Dangerous and producing amusing primitivist paintings which you can see on her official website.

 

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Susan Tyrrell.com

My So-Called Rotten Life by Paul Cullum

Posted by Richard Metzger
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09.18.2009
03:11 pm
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Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers
09.17.2009
12:07 am
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Despite its Jason Pierce score and Werner Herzog subplot, Mister Lonely, Harmony Korine‘s feature film from ‘07 left me bored and disappointed.  Its opening moments had a sense of poetry and provocation (see here), but all that was quickly squandered as Korine, striving to broaden his film’s appeal I’m guessing, attempted the distinctly non-Gummo feat of “establishing his characters.”

Korine’s new film, Trash Humpers, premiered this week in Toronto and, fortunately, it looks like he’s left very far behind him the burdens of character development.  The trailer follows below, but I’m finding even more intriguing this Variety review which opens thusly:

Pity the festival-going fool who stumbles unawares into Harmony Korine’s patently abrasive, deliberately cruddy-looking mock-documentary “Trash Humpers.”  All others—that is, those familiar with Korine’s anti-bourgeois oeuvre and know what they’re in for—will have a glorious time.

Named for a band of cretinous vandals in old-folks masks who favor gyrating against garbage cans (and worse), “Trash Humpers” is a pre-fab underground manifesto to rank beside John Waters’ legendarily crass “Pink Flamingos.”  Theatrical distribution is virtually inconceivable—though, in part for this reason, any fest devoted to maintaining its rep among cult-film completists will simply beg for it.

 
In Daily Variety: Trash Humpers

Trash Humpers @ The Toronto Film Festival

Posted by Bradley Novicoff
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09.17.2009
12:07 am
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Amusing Willem Defoe Moments from “The Boondock Saints”
09.16.2009
09:55 pm
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Kinda makes me feel like river dancin’.

(via Why, That’s Delightful! )

Posted by Tara McGinley
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09.16.2009
09:55 pm
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Gordon Gekko: A Man for the Ages
09.15.2009
03:01 pm
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Wall Street villain Gordon Gekko is planned to return in a new sequel, entitled, er, “Wall Street 2” and set to follow Gekko as he is released from prison just in time to get involved in the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers. Hopefully he’ll get a new cell phone. Unfortunately, he’s also getting a new sidekick… Shia LaBeouf. Groan.

Wall Street is, in my opinion, Oliver Stone’s best movie, and a critical text of American literature and film. Watch it back to back with “American Psycho” to understand the sociopathic mentality that drives the axle of America’s wheel. Screenwriter Stanley Weiser took an incredibly complex world and made it seem storybook-simple; probably the kind of thing Americans need now to make sense of the “what the f—- just happened??” factor.

One thing that struck me, in reading about the original Wall Street, was multiple quotes from Stanley Weiser saying how many people had approached him over the years telling him that Gordon Gekko had inspired them to go into investment trading. Having known a few real-life Gekkos, and also more than a few people (of the younger generation) who took Patrick Bateman from “American Psycho” as their own personal life paragon, it seems that, well, people love bad guys… and also seem incapable of understanding satire.

Weiser says:

Stanley Weiser, screenwriter of the original film, has complained that real-life traders looked on Gekko as more of a hero than a villain.

“After so many encounters with Gekko admirers or wannabes I wish I could go back and rewrite the greed line to this: ‘Greed is good. But I’ve never seen a Brinks truck pull up to a cemetery,’” he said last year.

I wonder how many of the people who f’ed the country this time around were living out their own private Oliver Stone fantasy?

(Telegraph: Wall Street 2: Michael Douglas and Oliver Stone reunite for sequel)

Posted by Jason Louv
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09.15.2009
03:01 pm
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Stunt Rock
09.11.2009
05:07 pm
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New on DVD, Stunt Rock. This film mixes footage from an Australian stunt man with onstage performances of an awful, idiotic heavy metal rock band called Sorcery.

Here’s a description:

Australia’s premier stuntman, Grant Page, is on a mission: filmmaker Brian Trenchard Smith has sent him to LA to work on a TV series. Here he meets up with fellow daredevil Cutis Hyde, who does stunt work for a theatrical rock band called Sorcery, and Page impresses the rockers so much with his daredevil antics that they hire him as well. While his first stunt lands him in the hospital, the reckless Page defies his doctors orders, escaping out of the ward’s fifth-story window to get back to the band. Page soon finds himself the focus of the ladies, attracting both a newspaper reporter (Margaret Gerard) and a television star (Monique van de Ven). Featuring non-stop action, a killer soundtrack and a bit of romance on the side, STUNT ROCK is an adrenaline-filled, cult classic that is sweeping the midnight circuit!

The good vs evil heavy metal number is really something to see. Once. Or as Harry Knowles would have it: “Stunt Rock is not a very good film, but sometimes a movie doesn?

Posted by Richard Metzger
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09.11.2009
05:07 pm
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A Basterds Antidote: Kobayashi’s The Human Condition
09.09.2009
05:40 pm
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Although I found parts of Inglourious Basterds entertaining (especially the acting), Quentin Tarantino’s rewriting of World War II’s end days left me, as a whole, both confused and disappointed.  I can understand film as wish-fulfillment (that’s why we go to movies).  I can also recognize the appeal of what-if scenarios (The Man In The High Castle, anyone?).  But fighting genocide with genocide, and showing it triumph, over Hitler and History, strikes me as infantile, and reduces to cartoonish dimensions the very real horrors of the time.

And if you’re of the camp that thinks QT’s commenting, like, ironically on this stuff, that would mean you could detect, amid all the gunshots and carvings, a trace of regret here and there—even some ambivalence.  Well, you can’t.  Not in a single, gleeful frame.  It would also presuppose some recognition on Tarantino’s part of life beyond film—of film as a reflecting pool that’s capable of bouncing back at us something more than the shards and slivers of other films.  I’m not sure he’s that self-aware.  I’m not sure he cares to be.

For me, the war film, or, more specifically, The Nazi War Film, best conveys its horror when its full dimensions haven’t yet been realized.  As something approaching on the horizon, dark and inevitable for the film’s participants.  I think that’s why the below clip from Cabaret chills far more effectively than anything in Basterds or Downfall; why a Weimar-era Aryan youth singing as he salutes freaks me the fuck out far more than the table-banging Hitlers of Wuttke and Ganz.

 
So, with all this in mind, I read with great interest Grady Hendrix’s Slate piece about this week’s Criterion release of Masaki Kobayashi‘s The Human Condition:

Deep where Basterds is shallow, expansive where Basterds is puny, and profound where Basterds is glib, Kobayashi’s humanist triumph is finally getting the Western exposure it deserves.  Based in part on a six-volume novel by Junpei Gomikawa and, in part, on Kobayashi’s own wartime experiences as a pacifist trying to survive in the Japanese army, The Human Condition is as grand in scale and scope as that other anti-war classic, Gone With the Wind.  Like the South, Japan lost a war and can’t stop talking about it.  Every great Japanese director has a movie about the traumas of WWII under his belt, but none is as ambitious as The Human Condition.

Before you rush to queue this up, though, Hendrix also warns that the movie runs nine-and-a-half hours (albeit spread over three films), and is so “monumentally painful to watch, that it stands as the Grand Canyon of despair.”  Well, for those of you willing to commit yourselves to only, say, the San Fernando Valley of despair, the following trailer for Part I clocks in at just under 5 minutes.

Posted by Bradley Novicoff
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09.09.2009
05:40 pm
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Spike Jonze’s Harold And The Purple Crayon
09.08.2009
06:59 pm
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Fascinating read in Sunday’s NYT Magazine charting the ups and downs of Spike Jonze, and his efforts to bring to the screen an adaptation of Where The Wild Things Are that didn’t feel studio-diluted.  It’s been a long, difficult march, but even before Wild Things (and before, for that matter, either Malkovich or Adaptation), Jonze was preparing to tackle another children’s classic, Crockett Johnson‘s Harold And The Purple Crayon.  He didn’t get far with it, but his efforts did yield a little-seen film test, which, thanks to YouTube, you can now watch below:

 
Official site for Where The Wild Things Are

Posted by Bradley Novicoff
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09.08.2009
06:59 pm
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