Category: Uncategorized


…some serious, others taking the piss…

How Harry Became a Tree (2001, Goran Paskaljevic) – On your honeymoon, having your nagging father who keeps calling you over to tell you something and then forget what it is he was going to say is most likely to start your married sex life on the wrong foot.

 

127 Hours (2010, Danny Boyle) – When mountain climbing it is ESSENTIAL to bring the following:

 – More than one bottle of water.

– Scooby snacks.

– That Swiss knife you know you can always rely on (DO NOT LEAVE WITHOUT IT!)

– A copy of Playboy magazine, or whatever floats your boat.

You won’t need to worry about shaving, because your beard doesn’t grow when you’re stuck in a hole (James Franco’s didn’t…)

Pierrot le Feu [Crazy Pete] (1965, Jean-Luc Godard) – Girl, yo’ man don’ giv’ a dang about yo’ fate line on yo’ hand. Na-ha…he only care ‘bout the line o’ yo’ thigh. Yessir! 

The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001, The Coen Brothers) – The future is not in ‘dry cleaning’.

One Body Too Many (1944, Frank McDonald)If Bela Lugosi offers you coffee, don’t drink it. He has this strange habit of putting too much sugar and rat poison in it.

Of course, he’s neither a coffee or a tea man. He really likes human BLAHDD. 

Little Big Man (1970, Arthur Penn)If you’re a woman, and you just happen to be kidnapped by Cheyenne, they will not necessarily rape you – even if you want them too!

Our Town (1940, Sam Wood)According to Thornton Wilder, who wrote the screenplay and the play on which the film is based, the afterlife is just a place where one waits and forgets all his memories so as to be ready to start a new life. The character played by Martha Scott experiences this for herself. She also finds that one can relive a memory as if they were there and they were looking at everything around them. Only it is not advisable to look at the happiest memories, because they are the ones that hurt the most.

Ride Ranger Ride (1936, Joseph Kane) – “Good Injun? No such thing as one!”

Popiól i Diament [Ashes and Diamonds] (1958, Andrej Wajda) – Back in the day, in Poland, Hungarian cigarettes were the strong kind, while American ones were the light kind. When asking for them, a man would almost have to forgive himself and say ‘Americans are fine’ or explain that Hungarian ones were too strong for their old age, or a bad cough. I also learned that this film, and particularly Cybulski’s gunman character, inspired Morrissey’s stage attire! (And that Cybulski himself is the Russian James Dean).

 The Hiding Place (1975, James F. Collier)The Ten Baums family was a Dutch family that helped Jews from the terrors of Nazism – all were imprisoned, sent to a concentration camp and only one of them survived. She wrote an autobiography and sold the rights to a production company. [See Godard’s film ‘Elogé de l’Amour (In Praise of Love)’]

Beasts From Haunted Cave (1959, Monte Hellman)When you’re trying to pull off a major gold heist, make sure you don’t do it in a haunted gold mine and wave off the legends of a beast living in it as silly superstitions.

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It just so happened that on the same day, I watched two American Western movies. The big difference that made me think was the way in which they portrayed Native Americans. One was very sympathetic towards them, the other was certainly not.

The first movie was ‘Little Big Man’, the second ‘Ride Ranger Ride’.

Let me briefly describe each film.

 The first is an Arthur Penn film (Bonnie and Clyde) made in 1970. It stars Dustin Hoffman as a white man raised by the Cheyenne who failed his many attempts at fitting in with the Western Civilisation. It ends with the famous battle of Little Green Horn.

 The second is one of many Gene Autry westerns with hints of musical (Gene Autry was also a country singer, as well as a big star of the B-westerns) from 1936. Directed by Joseph Kane, it’s literally just cowboys shooting Indians.

 

Here are some things in the film which give examples of how Native Americans are represented in either film.

EXAMPLE N.1

 Little Big Man – The Cheyenne raise a white kid as their own.

 Ride Ranger Ride – The Cavalry is baddies, because they want to treat injuns as their equals. The Rangers are the goodies because they wanna shoot their brains out and save the white Americans.

 EXAMPLE N.2

LBM –  In a speech, the kid’s grandfather tells him that they do not hate the white man, rather they would like them to share their beliefs that ‘everything around them lives’ instead of ‘everything around them dies’.

 RRR – Gene Autry’s second in hand talks to a Cavalry man who tells him that there are some good injuns. The good redneck replies “A good injun? No such thing!”. Later on, after he is put in jail on a death sentence for trying to kill an Indian he declares “Killed for killin an injun? Why, I’ve been a-killin’ ‘em all my life!”

 EXAMPLE N.3

 LBM – When The Cheyenne go to battle they oppose the whites’ rifles with Arches and by tapping them lightly with sticks to humiliate them. Before they go to battle they tell each other that ‘it’s a good day to die’. Hoffmann’s character says that the whites praising their victories against the Native Americans is ‘just dumb’.

RRR – The injuns have rifles and arches and know how to use them. So, go get them Rangers – before they get you!

EXAMPLE N.4

LBM – The Cheyenne take the scalps of their ‘victims’ in sign of respect and remembrance for the lives of the people to whom it belonged – even their enemies.

RRR – Injuns take people’s scalps for gambling debt.

Wow, Hollywood, you’re trying to confuse me. So, are injuns good or bad??

NOTE – Good thing Ride Ranger Ride wasn’t called Kill Kowboy Kill, eh?

10 – SCARABEA – WIEVEL ERDE BRAUCHT DER MENSCH? (Scarabea – How Much Land Does One Man Need?)

Directed by – Hans-Jurgen Syberberg / Starring – Walter Buschhoff, Nicoletta Machiavelli

A Teutonic lecher on vacation in Southern Italy makes a bet with the local peasants that he can make a full circle around the deserted territory around a small village and whatever land he will cross will be his. This forgotten underrated German film by Hans-Jurgen Syberberg is for anyone who is tired of the usual travelogue movie like ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ about people on holidays who find love and happiness – here, what is found is madness, sex crazed thoughts and mind-eating obsession.

9 – THE WEDDING MARCH (1928)

Directed by – Erich von Strotheim / Starring – Fay Wray, Erich von Strotheim

Von Strotheim wanted to be remembered as a filmmaker, not as an actor. Yet, his directing ended after the disastrous production of Queen Kelly (on which Billy Wilder plays a lot by casting him as the zombie-like masterservant of Gloria Swanson – who was star and producer of Queen Kelly – in Sunset Blvd.). While silent film enthusiasts will be familiar with Greed, The Wedding March is much less known. Here, Von Strotheim directs himself as a Viennese Aristocrat who struggles to find enough money to feed his hunger for wild parties, drinking binges and orgies. So his mother approaches him with a most warming parental advice…‘Marry money’ – a limping daughter of a non-aristocrat industrialist. But in the meantime, he has his eye on a young working class girl (Fay Wray of King Kong fame) who falls hopelessly and helplessly in love with him. But is she just another one of his ‘victims’? Von Strotheim was too daring for production code America…

 

8 – LOIN DU VIETNAM (Far From Vietnam) (1967)

Directed by – Joris Ivens, William Klein, Claude Lelouch, Agnés Varda,  Jean-Luc Godard, Chris Marker, Alain Resnais

Godard, Ivens, Klein, Marker, Varda, Resnais, Lelouch.

7 of the most influential figures in cinema and photography. Here, these revolutionaries group to take on America, the great dictators of popular culture, by siding with the North Vietnamese in this documentary on why America should have left them alone. A brave intellectual work that differentiates itself from others of the kind (political documentaries and compilation films) but has been unbelievably forgotten – although maybe it’s not too hard to see why, is it Uncle Sam?

7 – LA NUIT DE LA VERITÉ (The Night of Truth) (2004)

Directed by – Fanta Régina Nacro / Starring – Naky Sy Savane, Georgette Paré, Sami Rama

Fanta Régina Nacro. You would think that this name would be much more known; this is not the case. Take note – this was the first sub-Saharan woman to have directed a feature film. And a hard hitting one it was. It tells the story of the preparations for a celebration of the two peoples of an unnamed African country on their path to reconciliation. The tension is palpable, and a night of feast turns into an inevitable bloodbath. Haunting and unforgettable for all who have seen it – who should be more than the ones that actually have.

6 – PARENTI SERPENTI (Dearest Relatives) (1992)

Directed by – Mario Monicelli / Starring – Marina Confalone, Paolo Panelli, Alessandro Haber

Recently deceased Mario Monicelli is a most appreciated director of Italian comedy. Yet, Parenti Serpenti enjoyed some popularity, but is now unrightly forgotten. Furthermore, the story of sons cannot bear the thought of taking their elderly parents home when they express (during the Christmas vacations) their wish for protection and someone to look after them in their old age is a bitter satire which reflects the opinions on families of its director, knowingly a solitary man himself never married and died alone (suicidal).

5 – RAIDERS OF OLD CALIFORNIA (1957)

Directed by – Albert C. Gannaway / Starring – Lawrence Dobkin, Douglas Fowley, Lee van Cleef

Low budget genre films from the fifties do not have such a good reputation. Here is a rare exception. This western, whose biggest star is Lee van Cleef in a supporting role, has a plot about a Mexican man wanting to take the land that was stolen from him back, and rebels against American McCain. The underlying drama is almost impossible to underlook, which is a rare factor for even most westerns of the time. But it is the solid direction from Albert C. Gannaway, with his gunfights and horse races that makes this an unexpected treat. It’s a bit unjust that the people that made low budget crappy films like Ed Wood and Dwain Esper are still popular, but people that turned crap into gold are largely forgotten.

4 – GRAZIE, ZIA (Come Play With Me) (1957)

Directed by – Salvatore Samperi / Starring – Lou Castel, Lisa Gastoni

Samperi lives in the shadow of Tinto Brass. The media and the marketing of films can really trash your reputation, and a filmmaker’s own identity. So it happens that this eccentric drama with strong erotic underlying tones be mixed in with the numerous rude and shit Italian sex comedies of the time. A young rich man who may or may not be paralysed (though he thinks he is) is brought to his aunt’s custody and care – and their relationship turns into a strange erotic, bitter battle. Samperi was the Italian Lindsey Anderson, yet while his films are marketed like Tinto Brass films, no one will ever know what gems they are.

3 – SERMOES – A HISTORIA DE ANTONIO VIEIRA (Sermons – The Story of Antonio Vieira) (1989)

Directed by – Júlio Bressane / Starring – Othon Bastos, Caetano Veloso

 Who was Father Antonio Vieira? Regarded as one of the best Portuguese writers ever. He lived in the 17th century and took an open stance against colonialism and slavery, therefore was killed by the Portuguese inquisition. Here, his sermons are brought to life by Othon Bastos’s performance, and a wonderful photography that exalts the meticulously studied art direction and looks like portraits painted in the style of the time, in a quasi-experimental philosophical journey of an unsung important historical figure.

2 – MNE DVADTSAT LET (I Am Twenty Years) (1964)

Directed by – Marlen Khutsiyev / Starring – Valentin Popov, Nikolai Gubenko, Stanislav Lyubshin

This is perhaps the greatest undiscovered gem of this list. Unfortunately, a lot of the works of the Soviet Union are not so well known, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it was die to the Cold War. This film is a romantic view on what it was like to be twenty in Communist Russia – a pretty uncomfortable time where one was expected to start working and become an adult. Yet, there is a hint of rebellion in the characters that still choose to have a good time, dance in the streets and play football, desperately clinging on to what must inevitably go – thoughtlessness, friendships and love. This is one of my favourite films all time, I only watched it once at two in the morning on an obscure TV channel.  

1 – ASPHALT (1929)

Directed by – Joe May / Starring – Gustav Froelich, Betty Amann

Perhaps the last masterpiece of German expressionism, and it represents perfectly the very essence of film noir from its subject, to its setting and its masterful photography – as such, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the great classics like Casablanca, Double Indemnity etc. were really trying to be spin offs of the exact energy and charm that this film had. The story is simple and lies at the foundation of all film noir – the good natured man turned bad by a femme fatale. The good guy is a cop, the femme fatale is a robber, who tries (ever so hard, see poster) to avoid her arrest by seducing the cop, in a long and amazingly sexually charged scene that will never be surpassed.

I realise I haven’t been on this for a while, not that it matters much. I haven’t written anything since my near depressing one where I expressed my thoughts about graduating…But my life ain’t all bad.

I don’t look bad for an eighty year old.

Anyways. I have been on an average of three films a day – watching absolutely everything. When I say I’m obsessed, I am obsessed. From classics, to exploitation – from masterpieces to shitteos. I am film-omnivorous, I am addicted and I love it!

It’s the day before my graduation from Film School and I am in a rotten mood. I guess I started hating all these cerimonies when I was a little kid…I don’t know why. I guess it’s because I may be a rebel at heart, and any real rebel would despise anything older people would be excited about.

I don’t see the big deal in getting a piece of paper at all nowadays…especialy something as useless as a Film degree. These last three years that have led up to this moment would probably have been filled better had I shot anything with a camcorder, and posted it on youtube. Nowadays, Film degrees are ridiculous, because most of directors have to build up a reputation as writers, authors, actors and everything else but filmmaking to gain enough publicity to gather enough money to shoot your own movie. Well, that….or coming from a rich family. But hey, that helps with everything.

Hollywood, however, has always had a romantic view of Graduation. The first thing that comes into my mind is the Last Picture Show, and the bot where they sing the trademark graduation song. But more than that, I feel like Dustin Hoffman in the Graduate.

The first time I saw the movie, I thought it was good, but I didn’t understand what the fuss was all about. Now, time had passed by, I am 21 and have seen that movie again. Now, I understand I have become a character like Hoffman’s in that movie. I sit around all day aimlessly, not knowing what the hell I am going to do with my future, and as time passes by, I feel like I am becoming more and more of an island…yet I feel comfortable in this state. Unfulfilled, but comfortable. My Anne Bancroft is my band, whenever we play I feel like I got something to look forward to, but the next day, it all comes back to normal again.

I don’t think I will want to see this movie again any time soon, though. I will realise more and more that yes, he is a troubled young man…but he’s a rich man, he will be a succesful doctor and…Anne Bancroft looks amazing.

Anyone who hasn’t seen Maniac, a 1934 exploitational film by god-awful director Dwain Esper (who made the even worse Sex Madness that seems to be a chart topper at archive.org, no doubt because of the sex in its name…but imagine everyone’s disappointment to find that the closest you get to sex is close ups of real veneral diseases…eeeeewwww) will not know that it’s SO bad, it’s actually entertaining.

I must say, when it started off, it had me absolutely FREAKED OUT. That adagio, I have heard it before, but wouldn’t be able to say what it is exactly…The old fashioned title cards. Yes, I was FREAKED OUT, and I will say it again.

But before I go on to describe the film the best I can, I must discuss Esper’s filmmaking style. All the movies of his I have seen are too campy too be taken as horror films and too dark to be considered educational. In Marijuana, he used the drug as a means to show its horrors, and filled it with scrolling title cards that made the whole thing look like it had an educational purpose. Even worse, Sex Madness was tough to watch because of the sequence in the middle when the doctor takes the Syphillis infected woman through the clinic where other patients were being cured (only the footage was of real patients, and just thinking about the whole thing makes me want to throw up). Maniac deals with the different manias and phobias psychological issues that lead to murderous and evil deeds. These different manias are listed in a way that they interrupt the action with the cheesiest of title cards and the happiest of tunes…the whole thing looks ridiculous as a result.

So, the film opens up with a mad scientist and his assistant. Both seem to have germanic accents…so the viewer knows they’re evil and not exactly right in the head. The plot is very loosely based on Edgar A. Poe’s story ‘The Black Cat’ – a man buries another within the walls of the house and dresses up as him, and pretends to be him…however, the assistant in this case is unaware of the fact that he has buried a live cat along with his evil benefactor mad scientist.

The film is then filled with sequences that would make anyone cringe. Soft core sequences with half naked ad fully naked women. One of these sequences shows the rape of a women by a mad man as the assistant (disguised as the mad scientist) and the wife of the madman discuss calmly about something else. WHAT THE HELL!!! YOUR HUSBAND IS RAPING AN INNOCENT GIRL, LADY, STFU AND DO SOMETHING!!!

That’s not even the worst imagery of the movie. I didn’t fully understand the character of the cat owner, who owns cats so that he can take their fur. Not only that…he talks to a police man and tells him that he lets the cats feed off the rats and the rats feed off the cats. At some stage the mad scientist/assistant squeezes one of the skulls of the cats to hard that the cat’s eye pops out. He then proceeds to eat it. What that point of that sequence was isn’t even the scariest thing…the scariest thing is that, being a Dwain Esper movie, I am not so sure that no animals were harmed in the making of the film.

I would say that Dwain Esper guy must have been one fucked up guy…he went around showing these films like a travelling freak show, and in all fairness, this film is from 1934, but it feels like a film made at least 10 years after that. In a way, Dwain Esper may have had more of an impact on cinema, especially exploitational cinema, than anyone would suspect.

It’s been a while since I logged in, I guess it hasn’t been very convenient for me to log in and write anything lately. Sometimes I do wonder whether anyone will ever even read any of whatever I am writing, but then I think that it doesn’t matter, and it’s nice to write some things somewhere as a way of releasing this stream of consciousness.

Truth is that I have never found anyone with whom I could talk about all kinds of cinema; I really do wonder whether there is anyone else anywhere that is as helplessly fond of all kinds of cinema as I am. Right now I am going through this silent slapstick comedy phase; I do not personally know anyone, or of anyone else going through this phase.

Truthfully speaking, it is more a Larry Semon slapstick comedy phase, and that restricts that field of people I could talk this about with considerably. I am completely sold on his character, with the short large pants up to his shoulders, the white clown make up and that kiddyish grin on his face. Plus, those stunts…they maybe the whackiest I have ever seen (that is because Keaton’s ones are too mathematical and too precise, otherwise Keaton’s stunts would be the whackiest…they are probably my favorite too).

But looking through these Larry Semon films I have encountered a lady whose looks I have fallen for; a comedienne who has charmed me, but has been forgotten.

Her name is Madge Kirby. If you type that on google, you will find all about a murder case that has nothing to do with her. This is also the only picture I could find of hers on the internet.

The only paragraph I could find about her is from silentladies.com ;

“Madge Kirby, comedienne, came to this country from England where she was born, when but nine years old, and upon reaching her fourteenth birthday went upon the stage. She became ingenue for Richard Carle and Lew Fields and later went into vaudeville with Fred Walton. While visiting the, Biograph studio she was engaged for a comedy role. Since then Miss Kirby has played with Blanche Sweet and in productions at the American Film Co. as well as for the Fox Film Corporation. Followed eighteen months with Larry Semon, Vitagraph’s popular comedian, and now Miss Kirby is affiliated with Hank Mann, playing light comedy roles opposite Mr. Mann. Miss Kirby weighs one hundred and twenty-five pounds, is five feet four inches high, and though she has black hair and eyes, she invariably plays in a blonde wig.”

I didn’t know Kirby up to a few days ago, and perhaps would never have known her had I not been sent the collection of Semon shorts. Now that I have seen her, for some reason, I feel angry at the fact that some people that are capabl of catching your attention, and perhaps even make you fall in love become unknown, forgotten. It makes me angry and want to get up on a building in town and start shouting at everyone not to forget Madge Kirby. But as I said, it would probably make no difference, because if you type her name on google, nothing comes up, but everything about a murder. Do people even care?

Okay, so last night I finally watched Memento. Brilliant, loved it all from start to finished, loved Nolan’s style and the chronology made the story even more compelling and built up an original aura of suspence.

Guy Pearce was amazing, and looked really good…at the start I thought ‘wow, Nolan really wanted to cast Brad Pitt for it and is pulling a Hitchcockian Rebecca plot on Pearce’. But I got into his act real quick and thought ‘damn, this guy is good. What happened to him?’ …one bad movie too many I guess. Anyone remember The Time Machine?? (Anyone remember his co-star in that film, Samantha Mumba?? Anyone remember her brother Omero…??…that’s the Memento effect, I guess…)

Okay, personal update, today Laura Sassen from the Larry Semon research centre got back to me and she is being very helpful. This essay of mine could actually be good. I’m actually gathering enough info to write a book at this stage. She is going to send along a DVD with some rare Larry Semon shorts…sweet!

…anyone who wants to see the website (it’s also the only Semon website you will find on the internet) http://www.claudia-sassen.net/Larrygallery/ . Love the pic on the home page.

Moving on, got a call from FilmBase asking me to cover a seminar on documentary tomorrow, replacing their usual correspondant. But then got a call right after saying that their guy would be able to make it after all. Good for him…

I’m watching Welcome to Colinwood tonight. Never seen it before. Clooney’s in it, so it’s can’t be bad…

I am annoyed. Very annoyed.

I spent all day yesterday writing an essay I hope to get published (and someone please tell me where) on Larry Semon.

Larry who?, I hear you say (the few lucky ones that will ever read this).

He was a slapstick comedy man at the start of the 20th century, though most people that still know him reside in Italy and know him as Ridolini. At the height of his career, he was huge, his name was on par with Chaplin, though the quality of his stuff isn’t even half as good as Chaplin’s. As a matter of fact, they are hard to watch…just the kind of slapstick with people falling over and throwing stuff at fat guys…except Semon had more personality than, say Hughie Mack (Hughie, who?…can’t help ya this time)

Nowadays he is either only mentioned by anyone talking about the start of Laurel and Hardy’s careers (he worked with both seperately, getting the former fired out of jealousy and the latter typecast as the villanous fat guy in almost every one of his flicks), or when talking about his awful Wizard of Oz version…

…I mean, here is this slapstick comedian, was huge now everyone is bored with him. He anounces to the world that his Wizard of Oz is gonna be a magical tale, his best work and his defining work. It starts off fine, a grandfather telling the magic tale to his granddaughter. That sequence lasts one minute. The rest is about an hour and a half of people throwing shit at each other, falling off things and the whole lot. There are about seven minutes of plot developments.

It was so bad, there was speculation that he faked his own death (true!).

I don’t know, maybe I’m just annoyed at the fact that I don’t know where to go and how to get to where I’m going (it made sense in my head!). Semon is a good laugh in some of his two reels, at least the ones that still exist, which is, like, a tenth of them.

Couldn’t sleep last night so I threw on an old Hithcock silent film I downloaded from archive.org (great website). There was no soundtrack, so I just played tunes from my WMP on random. I actually love doing that, watching silent films while listening to music on your WMP (or iTunes, probably better). It works great. It especially worked when I watched Asphalt (by Joe May, 1926) while listening to Horses by Patti Smith. Great experience. It helped that it was a great movie too. Easy Virtue is slow and unnecessarily confusing. But Hitchcock still rules (obviously!).

That’s it for today. It’s half seven and I haven’t had a thing all day, just looking for places to get my writings published. Maybe I’m a shit writer…anyways if anyone wants to help let me know.

see ya.

Hey. This is my first blog, I figured it could let some of my frustrations from my illness out.

My illness is one that cannot be cured. I have been obsessed with films since I was ten. The date coincides with my moving to Ireland from Italy. The only safe way I had to learn some English, which I didn’t know, was from films. And that’s when I caught the virus…

I watch everything, I am omnivorous. I am so into films that I went to film school and realised I loved them too much to make them. I just love to watch them and talk about them…I could talk about them all the time. So, my goal in life is to be able to do so…and getting paid.

That is what makes me what I am today; a (very) struggling freelance writer and part time rock and roller (check out my band Lexington 125…just a little self promotion).

And this is the diary of a frustrated movie freak. Anyone with my kind of virus will share my plight.