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lezard's Reviews

Displaying Review 21 - 25 of 45 in total

  • Written by lezard on 08.02.2020

    A lost motel run by a misfit. Janet leigh, undressed. Does it ring a bell ?

    This scene was watched by Alfred Hitchcock (who must have been inspired) before he actually shot it and made a masterpiece out of it. But the movie we are talking about is « Touch of Evil » by another genius: Orson Welles.

    The movie begins with a piece of anthology : a 3-minute-12 long sequence shot. Of course, every movie-maker would gulp at the sheer virtuosity of the scene, but rather than the very performance it highlights, it is its absolute relevance and the way it heralds the whole movie which fascinates. It starts with the timing of a bomb and ends up on a kiss, which litterally triggers the explosion, a brilliant idea. Between the 2 moments, a carnival of sound and pictures unfolds, illustrating what the movie is about : the crossing of (all) borders. Seldom have we heard such an invading and essential soudtrack as well.

    The movie is set in a border-town between the USA and Mexico. Corruption, smuggling, violence are everywhere. Vargas (C. Heston), a Mexican cop married to an American (J. Leigh) comes to help detective Quinlan (O. Welles) in an investigation.

    The plot is thin but matters much less than the toxic, stifling atmosphere. The picture itself seems corrupted and many framings are twisted. Everything looks as excessive, distorted and fat as Quinlan's body. It is a theatre of shadows, a carnival of lost souls, the sunset of a decaying world. Gang rape, hallucinations, drugs. Very rare and stunning scenes in the puritan America of the 50's.

    « Touch of Evil » is the baroque poem of the night, a somnambulic ambulation between 2 worlds : a hybrid border-town, a grey zone between law and order, good and evil, rough bars, sleazy motels, industrial no-man's land. Borderline characters flirting with insanity, silhouettes, nightmares.

    Final scenes among oil-wells where machines, like Welles himself, fumble deep into the world's heart to dig out the blackness/darkness it hosts.

    Welles, as usual is a monster of an actor. His funeral oration is recited by Marlene Dietrich, like a ghost right out of a Von Sternberg movie : « He was some kind of a man ! »

    This movie has the beauty of the devil.

  • Written by lezard on 25.02.2020

    The early 50's. America still sees itself in white. Mc Carthy's obsession for communism ruins thousands of lives. The cold war is The USA daily bread. The cinema, as always a mirror of the American life, is full of witch hunts, in films noirs (Pick Up on South Street, I Was a Communist for the FBI...) as well as horror movies (The Thing from Another World, Invasion of the Body Snatchers..). The threat clearly comes from the east and the cold.

    Robert Aldrich, who has just directed two iconoclastic western movies (Vera Cruz and Bronco Apache) tackles the film noir and litterally dynamites the genre.

    The opening scene is like a slap in the face.
    Night. Two naked legs run on a road. The soundtrack is a breathing, between panting and orgasm. The credit list unfolds, backward. A woman, naked under her trench coat stands in the middle of the road. Mike Hammer manages to stop his car, in a screech of tyres. She hops in. A police road block. A woman, runaway from a psychiatric asylum is on the run. She takes Hammer's hand and pulls it between her bare legs. Silent deal. The road block once passed, the car is stopped by gangsters. Hammer knocked out. The woman tortured.
    Kiss me deadly indeed! Only one motto: survive!
    Hammer wakes up in hospital. The investigation starts and follows the classic steps: witnesses, suspects, false leads, threats, explosions, gunfights... Still, we know from the beginning it's not a classic movie. Everything seems new. The framings, the rythm give the movie a paranoid emergency. Numerous shots of stairways, corridors, distorting depth of field. We are in a sick America, a suspicious America. The characters are often alone in the shots whic conveys a suffocating atmosphere. The villains are mean, the vamp tempts but the hero isn't a hero anymore and our landmarks are no longer valid . Hammer isn't kind-hearted Bogart. He nearly pimps his secreatary, is way more cruel than the hoods and thrives on torturing the suspects.

    The investigation comes to an end. Grande finale. Once more Pandora opens the box. Fire takes over and the sea seems to erase humanity.

    A great hallucinating, exhilarating movie. A lesson in film directing.

    Kiss me Deadly! Vavavoum!

  • Written by lezard on 03.03.2020

    Where shall I start?

    This movie by Alexei Guerman is so unique that it's difficult to know where to begin with. The plot: on a foreign planet, people still live in the middle age and the leaders have managed to shatter any attempt at the appearance of a Renaissance. Explorers from the earth are sent to watch and investigate this world. Of course Guerman tells us about our world and his (a decaying USSR and a newly-born maffia ridden Russia) and the observation is irrevocable.

    Have you ever felt a movie physically? Not watched it, felt it, really, like say you want to shake your hair after they've caught the rain. A movie like a thick forest through which you have to dig every step. A movie which watches you as much as you watch it, where actors regularly address the camera, a maelström of confusion.

    It's a black and white world, a world of snow and cold. The pictures are genuinely fantastic and we move around and inside middle-age paintings from Brueghel to Bosch.

    Sensations really matter as much as the story itself that we often fail to grasp. It's not a real problem since the weirdness that the movie conveys is worth experimenting. Guerman aims at unsettling us with uneasiness. We wander endlessly in an atmosphere of blood, sweat, excrement, spit, snod, sperm and the first ground is often «barred» by a series of hanging obstacles, strange tools and instruments, smoke, pieces of clothing, hanged corpses. Cold, fog and snow cover this world of misery and suffering where people are puppets in a grotesque and crual show.

    You have NEVER seen anything like this!
    Resist the temptation of going away and take the Guerman tour, which, as the film unfolds, becomes mesmerizing.
    Something you'll NEVER forget.

  • Written by lezard on 04.03.2020

    Early 60's, Italy. A countryside girl dreams of stardom. Like a butterfly she is attracted by the city lights. We've seen this before. Or haven't we?

    We first discover Adriana (S. Sandrelli in an outstanding performance) on the beach, sunbathing. Pietrangelli heralds what is to come. He shows us what everybody will see whan when they look at her: a body.

    Adriana is young, beautiful and joyful. Bored with her humdrum life, she craves for fun, fame, luxury, parties. She encounters agents, managers, directors, would-be artists. She radiates with «joie de vivre». She ripples with sex and has some easily and happily. She is obviously gifted for the pleasures of life.

    But from one encounter to another, we watch her being used, misused, abused, shattered. The film well depicts this ruthless world of predation that so many other movies have described as well, but the point of view is different. At that time, a female look on the world of cinema (or any other world) was rare. Pietrangelli here joins directors like Mizoguchi in their love, respect and defense of women.

    Eventually, we find out that Adriana, first presented as a nice, delightful bimbo, is a really moving and unexpected woman, and we come to understand the bitter irony of the original title. Nobody knew her well because nobody really cared to.
    Thus the movie is also a «lesson» of cinema. What do we see, what do we want to see when we watch actresses, and women? What do we miss?

    This movie is a rare gem with a great b&w photography.

  • Written by lezard on 23.04.2020

    Spain in the 30's. The world seen by a little girl.
    It starts like in cinema. It starts with cinema. And of course with the light which is linked to it. There are secrets and silence and cinema lights the lantern of the world, casting fascinating, scaring shadows. Plato's cave.
    It starts like childhood. It starts with childhood. You won't forget Ana Torrent's
    eyes, riveted to Frankenstein's creature on the screen.
    In Erice's movies, light renders time (and weather) palpable. The light of the projector splits the night and reveals the marvels and torments of the world. It reveals the truth behind appearances. The creature's killing spur behind its innocence.
    The world of the adults is full of lies and hidden things. Revelation and deception. Families are full of secrets. The mother lies awake, listening to the howling of the passing trains that take away her dreams and her letters in the night. Rather than lies, the family is an arrangement with desire. As to love, it can kill, like monsters or war.
    Death is lurking, the parents' death, the soldier's death. The childen who pretend to be dead to tame their fear and fascination.
    There is silence, secrets. The silence of the family, again, with cheating and disappointment, the things you never speak of. The silence about the war and its atrocities, the deadly silence of history about the crimes of franquism (Franco was not dead when the movie was shot).
    Faced with the cruelty of the world, there is escape. The adults' escape. They flee their responsabilities and bury their hopes and dreams. There is the children's escape, the fantastic power of their imagination., the summoning of the spirits. Fantastic theatre of childhood. In the cold and high-ceilinged bedrooms, near the railroad tracks, on the great plain, their plays, challenges and tales unfold.
    In the wells sleep the monsters. A watch given as a gift, tries to stop time. The bees weaves in the light the honey of childhood, that will melt with the lies of adulthood.
    Ana stands in front of the window, fragile and almighty, facing the sunrise and storms to come. Eventually, Erice doesn't forget the magical loneliness of this childhood. With it, he has shaped a gem in the night of cinema.
    Spain in the 30's, a little girl confronted to monsters and the harshness of the world. Guillermo Del Toro will remember it 33 years later.

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