Archive for July, 2009


“Got me a movie/I want you to know…”

31 July 2009


….don’t know about you
but I am un chien andalusia….

“Debaser” / The Pixies / written by Black Francis

File under: Songs That Feature Movies.

Related files: The Book or the Movie (such as Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights”) and Title Same as the Movie’s, but Unrelated (Springsteen’s “Thunder Road”)

un chien andalou


Scores to Settle: Two Films about Revenge

28 July 2009

Two films I recently saw on cable dealt with revenge (that dish, as the saying goes, best served cold). One film did serve it cold: The Page Turner (La Tourneuse de pages); the other, at a boil: Dead Man’s Shoes.

The Page Turner (2006), directed by Denis Dercout, stars Déborah François as

Mélanie, the small town butcher’s daughter whose ambitions as a pianist were dashed during a childhood exam when one juror, a famous concert pianist [Catherine Frot], distracted her by signing an autograph. A decade on, this shy girl is somehow hired as governess to the woman’s son, and soon she’s assisting as page turner as Frot prepares for a comeback concert. Is Mélanie plotting revenge? Nursing a crush? Or hoping to bask in reflected glory? This cool, elegant and often witty film remains admirably ambiguous until the final scenes, and even then wisely forgoes tying up too many loose ends. (Time Out Film Guide)

The film plays with some our plot expectations, learned from other suspense dramas.

Look for Déborah François in her first film, L’Enfant, a film we hope to show this fall as part of our OFG offerings.

pageturnerDéborah François in The Page Turner

Dead Man’s Shoes (2004) is from British director Shane Meadows, who wrote it with the film’s lead actor, Paddy Considine.

Something is rotten in a Midland village, though from initial appearances it runs no deeper than the petty drug-dealing, porn and Pot Noodles that charcterise the lives of local goons Herbie, Soz, Tuff and Sonny. Considine busts their chops, steals their stash and daubs taunts on their walls before they have time to figure out who he could be; even when they do, they don’t realise quite how scared they should be. (Time Out Film Guide)

dead_mans_shoesPaddy Considine (with Toby Kebbell) in Dead Man’s Shoes

This was my first exposure to Shane Meadows; his best known work in this country is probably This is England (2006). Paddy Considine was terrific, as expected.

Sidebar: If they cast a biopic of the band X, I’d pick Considine (l) to play John Doe (r). Seeing as Doe has plenty of acting gigs on his own CV, maybe the two should be cast as brothers sometime….



Take the Quiz

28 July 2009

The subject of the Pop Quiz included in the latest Education section of the NY Times is film studies. (I took quite of few lucky guesses: you’d think I really knew the horror genre: I managed to successfully match each film to the director–how I’m not sure.)

The multiple choice questions are on film history, the business, westerns, horror films, and 2 extra credit questions on film noir.

Give it a go; it’s fun and a nice change from those tissue-light quizzes on Facebook!



The Book and the Movie

16 July 2009

This week, after seeing the latest Harry Potter movie installment and finishing reading In a Lonely Place, I was thinking about the liberties taken with interpreting written fiction for the screen. Not having made it to the sixth book, I could take Harry Potter 6 as I found it, unfettered by noticing, as my more widely-read movie companion did, what was left out, what was really from the seventh book… The Potter movies struggle to streamline the length of the original source. It remains a plot-driven, visually-inventive story, though

The movie can bear little relation to the orignal source, though.


In a Lonely Place, the 1947 thriller by Dorothy B. Hughes, is so unlike the film noir classic of the same name that you have to wonder why the filmmakers didn’t pick a new title and new names for the characters. The changes from the book to the screen go well beyond those necessary to bring the inner life of the characters to the screen. The book shadows the main character, a serial killer in Los Angeles (always known to the reader) . Unlike the book,  the film (which contains only one of the murders) is “interested neither in creating mystery nor in following a process of detection….Above plot [the film] promotes character and both psycholgical and social portraiture, using the suspicion of murder as a pressure to dramatise the course of a romance from the discovery of love to its disintegration.” (V. F. Perkins’ essay on the film in The Book of Film Noir) (The poster above, though, seems to push the mystery/suspense aspect).

Does anyone, not having read the assigned book for book club, take the chance and instead watch the movie version? (When I was kid, I think some kids thought the Classics Illustrated comic books would cover their book report assignment…) Don’t assume just because you know the book, you know the movie (or other way round).


Still More Recommendations (But Let’s Stick With Green)

4 July 2009

Calling all Time Warner subscribers: I hope you’re more diligent than I am about checking in to see what’s available on the cable service’s Free Movies on Demand channel.

Yesterday I found two films on the channel’s Sundance menu that I”d recently seen via Netflix: Four Months, Three Weeks, Two Days and Army of Shadows.

I also scanned the TCM menu on the channel and found (and watched) Cruel Story of Youth (Seishun zankolu monogatari), Nagisa Oshima’s second film. Made in 1960, it wasn’t released in the US until the ’80s.

A little background on the filmmaker (best known in this country for In the Realm of the Senses):

Born into a family with samurai ancestry and socialist leanings, Mr. Oshima studied law at Kyoto University, where he became active in the left-wing student movement. His youthful ideals extended into his film career, and his interest in cinema as a revolutionary tool — along with his gift for acid polemics and his pop touch with political material — earned him repeated comparisons to another ’60s titan, Jean-Luc Godard  (Tired of being called Japan’s answer to Mr. Godard, Mr. Oshima suggested that Mr. Godard be considered the Oshima of France.)

Like all iconoclasts, Mr. Oshima has a patricidal aspect to his career. “My hatred for Japanese cinema includes absolutely all of it,” he declared. When he made a television documentary on Japanese cinema in 1995, he included only one clip each from older masters like Yasujiro Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi.  (Four of his own films made it in.) Where others saw refinement, Mr. Oshima saw meek politesse and ossified ideals of beauty. This is a filmmaker who once wrote an essay titled “Banish Green” and excised the color from his movies because he thought it too soothing.

It was not just Japanese aesthetics but a whole system of Japanese thought that Mr. Oshima sought to probe and overthrow….

Mr. Oshima threw in his lot with the underclass. His protagonists tend to be rebels, outcasts and criminals. Many of his plots pivot on scams, executed with either casual or desperate cruelty and typically doomed to backfire. (From “Safeguarding a Japanese Master’s Place in Film” by Dennis Lim, The New York Times, 9/25/08)

Set against the backdrop of the student protests of the US-Japan Security Treaty*, the self-involvement and scams of Cruel Story of Youth‘s two young lovers are contrasted with the disillusionment of the girl’s older sister and her former boyfriend, two lovers who thought they would be the ones to create a new Japan.

The film “was a surprise box office hit… and went on to become an icon of the taiyozoku, or ‘Sun Tribe,’ films, the popular cycle of overripe youth exploitation pictures that were an important staple of Japanese cinema during the early 1960s.” (Harvard Film Archive)

*In the film, a clip from a newsreel of South Korean students protesting was a revelation–these were uprisings that came years before the student sit-ins and marches that I associate with the ’60s.


Recommended Viewing: Brighton Rock

3 July 2009

I saw this on TCM earlier this year and highly recommend it. Keep your eye on the TCM schedule to catch it; it’s not available yet on US-formatted DVD (though it’s been released in the UK).

The film (also known as Young Scarface) was based on Graham Greene’s book, with Greene providing the screenplay (revising Terence Ratigan’s draft).  Directed by John Boulting in 1947, Richard Attenborough (years before he began directing) turns in a devastating turn as Pinkie, a baby-faced and cold-blooded gangster. (The ironic ending reminded me of the final scene of Gumshoe (1971).