NEW RELEASES - October 25
|FRESH FROM THE THEATERS|
Last Days (2005).
"It's a defiantly uncommercial, individualistic mode of expression that [Gus] Van Sant has been exploring with great success," wrote Sean Axmaker in the introduction to his interview with the director of Gerry and Palme d'Or-winner Elephant. "Last Days is the epitome of these explorations and a beautiful marriage of subject matter and style."
The subject matter, of course, is the final arc of the long decline of a very familiar-looking musician, Blake, played by Michael Pitt.
Mysterious Skin (2004).
At indieWIRE, Erik Syngle expressed a surprised reaction to Mysterious Skin that was echoed through most critics' reviews, writing that the film "proves that, contrary to any reasonable expectations, [Gregg] Araki has matured.... At the same time, it manages to incorporate most of his familiar trademarks: aliens, teenage angst, jailbait TV stars, and loads of sex. What it adds, most notably, are the twin excellent lead performances of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Brady Corbet and an authentic sense of place (Hutchinson, Kansas) as opposed to his usual shoestring L.A. 'nowhere.'"
"The film's krumpers are nothing short of intense and [fashion photographer-turned-director David] LaChapelle's saturated aesthetic evokes the way the energy of their glistening and glowing bods seemingly spills into the world around them. This is a fitting visual motif for a documentary about young men and women wishing to make a social imprint under their own terms," writes Ed Gonzalez at Slant. "It's like being high without the drugs."
Melinda and Melinda (2004).
When Match Point screened at Cannes this year, many critics hailed the return of the Woody Allen they once knew and loved. Not that Match Point is a comedy; by all accounts, it most certainly is not. But before Allen found the pulse of humanity once again after all these years, he made Melinda and Melinda - which, don't get us wrong, is not a bad film. But neither is it Manhattan or Crimes and Misdemeanors.
Still, it makes for a passable evening as we watch Radha Mitchell play out two possible versions of Melinda's life, one comic, the other tragic. And there's a sweet nod to My Dinner With Andre when it turns out to be Wallace Shawn (once again, over dinner) who proposes exploring the two opposing worldviews.
House of Wax (2005).
Just in time for Halloween, a silly scary movie. How silly? Two words: Paris. Hilton.
"Upon reflection," wrote Pete Vonder Haar at Film Threat when it was still in theaters, "the creators of House of Wax are pretty savvy... people are coming for the vicarious thrill of seeing Hilton, the 'star' of The Simple Life and assorted night-vision porno clips get brutalized (at the screening I attended, the audience cheered wildly when she finally bought it)."
Harold Pinter did it with Betrayal (and heavens, there's a film we need to see released on DVD): the dynamics of a relationship are exposed in extraordinarily revealing ways when the chapters of its development unfold backwards. Where Betrayal leads to an exhilarating temptation that will doom a marriage, François Ozon, in 5x2, begins in a similar spot but takes a different route, beginning with a divorce and tracing its origins all the way back to that first flicker of a flirt.
"The implication of the central performances [by Stéphane Freiss and Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi] - that those involved in the romance may be instinctively aware of that final outcome all along - is potent stuff," writes Nick Pinkerton at indieWIRE.
Spider Forest (2004).
Spider Forest "is a web of psychological twists and turns that will leave you trying to get untangled long after you leave the theater," wrote Joon Soh in the Korean Times as the film was on its way to becoming one of the countries biggest hits of last year. "The story does get pretty muddled at times but at its best moments the film is as frightening an experience as they come."
Love and Anger (1969).
If years had slogans, could you find a better one for 1969 than "Love and Anger"? And if the year were 1969 and you were in Europe and you were looking to put together a collection of topical films by some of the hottest directors around, here's who you'd choose: Carlo Lizzani, Bernardo Bertolucci, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Jean-Luc Godard and Marcello Bellochio.
Wheel of Time (2003).
Suddenly, after what seemed to have been years spent best known as a prominent figure in a chapter of cinematic history long past, New German Cinema, Werner Herzog was everywhere this year, alive and kicking ass. Ed Park captured the feeling of trying to keep up this summer in the Village Voice: "Between balloon (The White Diamond) and bear (Grizzly Man) comes Buddhism, in this season's transfixing trifecta of Werner Herzog docs."
Wheel of Time tells of a huge conclave in India in 2002 and of a more modest gathering later the same year in Austria. As Park writes, "Patient and fascinated, but never succumbing to abstraction, Wheel of Time can be seen as the middle installment of a trilogy against nature."
The White Diamond (2004).
The White Diamond "suggests that while he has mellowed a bit with age, [Werner Herzog] is still fascinated by the danger and romance of the natural world and attracted to characters who share this fascination," wrote A.O. Scott in the New York Times this summer. "His foil and alter ego in this case is Graham Dorrington, an English aeronautical engineer who designs airships and pilots them over remote tropical rain forests."
The Great Ecstasy of the Sculptor Steiner / How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck / La Soufrière (1979).
Three early films in which Werner Herzog examines the life of a man who wants to be a great sculptor (but who is actually a champion skier) in The Great Ecstasy of the Sculptor Steiner (1974); visits a world championship for cattle auctioneers in How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck? (1976); and explores the island of Guadaloupe after all but one of its residents have evacuated their town because of fears of an impending volcanic eruption in La Soufrière (1977).
The Wages of Fear (1953).
Criterion re-releases a restored version of Henri-Georges Clouzot's classic of nail-biting tension. "This grittily atmospheric and intensely suspenseful film has one hell of an explosive payload," writes Eoliano of this Palme d'Or-winner. "It's also a grim outcry against corporate greed, it's also a great humanitarian film about courage."
Bonus features: New video interviews with assistant director Michel Romanoff and Henri-Georges Clouzot biographer Marc Godin, a 1988 interview with Yves Montand, a 2004 documentary, Henri Georges Clouzot: An Enlightened Tyrant, and more.
Le Samouraï (1967).
"Long before Cahiers du Cinema was even a gleam in the eye of its founders, [Jean-Pierre] Melville worshiped at the shrine of Hollywood and dutifully cataloged its artistic riches," Jonathan Rosenbaum has written in the Chicago Reader. "Le Samouraï expresses a kind of loneliness to be sure, but it's that of a teenage male dreaming about Hollywood movies and their accoutrements - penthouse apartments, acerbic cops, melancholy city streets, smoky card games, fancy jazz nightclubs - which he projects into a Paris of the mind. Beginning with almost no dialogue at all, Le samouraï unfolds like a poetic fever dream."
This Criterion release features new video interviews with Rui Nogueira, author of Melville on Melville, and Ginette Vincendeau, author of Jean-Pierre Melville: An American in Paris, as well as archival interviews with Melville and actors Alain Delon, François Périer, Nathalie Delon and Cathy Rosier and more.
Samurai Rebellion (1967).
Masaki Kobayashi's classic was the centerpiece just last month of a "Summer Samurai" series at the Film Forum in New York, and little wonder. "The tension builds slowly until all hell breaks loose," David Shipman once gushed. "The final duel between [Toshiro] Mifune and [Tatsuya] Nakadai is as exciting as any ever put on film."
And Philip Strick in Sight & Sound: "The splendid Mifune scowl, and the instant authority with which he dominates the screen give him such seemingly unquestionable heroic integrity that his glee at a fight is disturbingly easy to share."
Another in Criterion's collection, "Rebel Samurai: Sixties Swordplay Classics," Kihachi Okamoto's Kill! is set apart for its bleak comedy. Criterion notes that it "playfully tweaks samurai film convention, mixing in elements from Italian westerns and established chanbara classics alike."
Samurai Spy (1965).
Masahiro Shinoda's entry in the collection, "filled with clan intrigue, ninja spies, and multiple double crosses, marks a bold stylistic departure from swordplay film convention." For more on what those conventions are, you'll want to see our Samurai primer.
Sword of the Beast (1965).
"One of [Hideo] Gosha's earlier movies, it contains all the elements that made him a chambara director to be admired and emulated," writes a fan at the IMDb. "Well-composed and thoughtful cinematography, a cynical view of authority (with certain implications for modern Japanese society), human drama, and of course, some excellent swordplay!"
The Beast (2003).
"The movie was originally conceived as an episode of director Walarian Borowczyk's Immoral Tales (1974), which was quite notorious (including scenes of masturbation, incest, orgies, and blood baths) without an added sequence involving bestiality," explains James Newman in Images. "In its original incarnation, The Beast focused on just the rape scene - an alternative view of the Beauty and the Beast tale in which the Beast is truly a beast and not just a gentleman in disguise. Here, the Beast is equipped with a phallus that would make a horse envious. No, this definitely isn't for the faint of heart."
"A bit slow for the set-up, but what a climax," writes asha in a list called surreal & ideal.
Strip Nude for Your Killer (1975).
First, we should mention that this is an excellent season in which to catch up with our Italian Horror primer. If giallo is still foreign to your personal vocabulary, do hasten on over and catch up.
Second, here's an example of the said genre. Highlights include a dash more sleaze than necessary and Edwige Fenech as a photographer's assistant.
Cannibal Holocaust (1979).
"Notorious for its ultra-realism and relentless scenes of carnage, Cannibal Holocaust has a sordid and fascinating history," writes Lawrence P. Raffel at Monsters at Play. "Quite often banned (in many countries)... the film had even dragged director [Ruggero] Deodato kicking and screaming to court at one point where he had to prove that the violence was indeed fake (except for the animal violence that is). Shocking because of its deadpan delivery, the many other cannibal clones available often came across as camp with nutty dialogue and hammy performances. Not Cannibal Holocaust though; with its serious and grim tone, the film is anything but a laughing matter (unlike Cannibal Ferox) and remains just as ferocious today as it ever was."
Gankutsuou. Chapter 1: The Count of Monte Cristo (2005).
"Gankutsuou, the latest effort from legendary director of Blue Submarine No. 6 and the 'Last Renaissance' segment from The Animatrix, is without a doubt one of the finest anime series ever made and probably the best thing released this year," writes Zac Bertschy for the Anime News Network. "People like to say shows like Naruto are 'for adults' because there's blood and swearing; Gankutsuou is for adults in the same fashion that films like Elizabeth or The Lion in Winter are for adults. It's a mature story, told in a mature way."
Melody of Oblivion. Metronome (2005).
"Despite its post-20th-century setting, The Melody of Oblivion maintains the flavor of a Classical or medieval epic: a lone warrior from an ancient order stands up for the people, riding a majestic steed and wielding a magic weapon," writes Carlo Santos for the Anime News Network.
GreenCiners' ratings of the two previous volumes have been quite respectable.
American Gothic (1995).
"American Gothic was one of the best shows ever on TV," writes Charles Herold in a comment left at the IMDb entry for this show, which met its demise far too soon ten years ago now. "Stephen King took several stabs at TV with little success; American Gothic was the show he should have created but didn't."
The L Word. Season 2 (2004).
"L.A., as conjured by producer Ilene Chaiken and director Rose Troche, is not so much city of angels as city of women - smart, successful, impossibly thin women with perfect, choppy haircuts," notes Joy Press in the Village Voice. "They reflect the real lesbian world as much as Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda reflect the straight one. That is to say, not much. But it doesn't matter, because these actresses radiate the same kind of luminous ensemble chemistry that has animated Sex and the City all these years.