26 August 2005

The Scarlet Kimono (USA, 1959)

Director Samuel Fuller was a very prolific screenwriter. Unfortunately, his career as director did not quite stood up. Although he is considered an excellent film director, his few films are unknown to movie fans. In this particular one, Sugar, a nightclub stripper, is brutaly assassinated one night. Police detectives link her murder to a criminal organization. Apparently, Sugar used to buy oriental style paintings from a local artist (junkie I would say). The local artists falls in love with both police detectives who are investigating the case, and a moral dilemma ensues. Meanwhile, we are led to believe that Mr. Shuho, a sumo wrestler, is behind the murder, and he runs back and forth trying to escape the law. A lot of Japanese traditional ceremonies are shown, but at the end, the real murderer is not the one we thought. A surprising twist gives this film an interesting approach, but there is also a lot of blah blah blah in between, which could have been cut.

19 August 2005

The Kiss of Death (USA, 1947)

Another gangster movie by director Howard Hughes. This time, professional “crook” Nick Bianco, is caught by the police while stealing a jewellery in New York. Police detective Di Angelo (I don’t understand their penchant for Italian names, like the mafia) puts him in jail. His other two assistants were able to escape. Bianco misses his wife and two little children girls. Along the way, he helps police detectives catch other gangsters. He becomes what they call a “squealer”, one who “sings”, in other words, tells the truth and blames other crooks. This is an interesting approach, far from expressionist scenes, the Kiss of Death deals more with the consequences of leading a life trying always to evade law and order, and the relation between his wife and two little kids. Extremely well acted scenes and a suspenseful climax make it a fun noir film to watch.

14 August 2005

My Top 30 (week of 14 August 2005)

1. Lifehouse – You And Me
2. Ludacris – Pimpin’ All Over The World
3. Lil’ Jon & the Eastside Boyz – Get Low
4. Ben Moody feat. Anastacia – Everything Burns
5. MVP – Rock Ya Body
6. Timo Maas – First Day
7. Destiny’s Child – Girl
8. Mis-Teeq – Eye Candy
9. Mariah Carey – We Belong Together
10. Shakira feat. Alejandro Sanz – La Tortura
11. Bodyrockers – I Like The Way

12. Black Eyed Peas – Don’t Phunk With My Heart
13. The Game feat. 50 Cent – Hate It Or Love It
14. 50 Cent – Just A Lil Bit
15. Nivea – Okay
16. Miri Ben-Ari – Jump & Spread Out
17. Fat Joe feat. Nelly – Get It Poppin
18. Rihanna – Pon De Replay
19. Akon – Lonely
20. Kelly Clarkson – Behind These Hazel Eyes
21. Rachel Stevens – So Good

22. Beverly Knight – Keep The Fire Burning (Remix)
23. Lemar – Time To Grow
24. Basement Jaxx – Oh My Gosh
25. Rob Thomas – Lonely No More
26. Mariah Carey – It’s Like That
27. Akon – Bananza (Belly Dancer)
28. Amerie feat. Eve – 1 Thing
29. Gwen Stefani – Hollaback Girl
30. Selma – If I Had Your Love
31. Anastacia – Heavy On My Heart

11 August 2005

The United States of Leland (USA, 2003)

Independent films from the USA always surprise me. I wonder why they do not have more of these and less no-brains action remakes (I think money explains it all) It’s a shame really.

Leland, son of famous novelist Albert Fitzgerald, commits an atrocious crime. He kills a boy with Down syndrome named Ryan. He does not feel any remorse. His jail teacher and writer wannabe, Pearl Madison, sees a great story for his next book by writing about Leland. He starts meeting with him and having existentialist conversations. Meanwhile, his ex-girlfriend, Becky, is under treatment for drugs. Things get complicated when we learn that Ryan was Becky’s brother. Director Matthew Ryan Hoge plays around with many interesting ideas: the existence of God, good and evil behaviours in people, the loss of any hope for a better and happier life. It deals with many controversial messages. It reminded me of American Beauty, with Kevin Spacey playing the role of writer Albert Fitzgerald. This is another gem from the American indie scene.

10 August 2005

Scarface (USA, 1932)

Controversial producer Howard Hughes, who was recently portrayed by DiCaprio in Scorsese’s latest film, the Aviator, was a controversial fellow back in the thirties. Scarface represents the first truly violent gangster film in American cinema, and that makes it a classic. Back in the days when beer was prohibited, Tony (Paul Muni), an “alcohol” dealer, makes tons of money and enemies along the way of becoming the king of all bars in the city (the name of the city is never revealed to the audience). He also meets the love of his life, and while trying to seduce her, he keeps a grip on his sister who is dating older and dangerous alcohol dealers. The political message is very strong. It denounces the government’s lack of control over the many beer mafia groups in the US at that time. The movie was made in 1930, but censorship prohibited its exhibition until 1932. Albeit the good interpretations and plot, the movie never received any prize (nor any nomination for that matter). Scarface was definitely a film ahead of its time, a breakthrough in gangster movies

03 August 2005

What Time Is It There? (Ni Neibian Jidian / Taiw√°n, France, 2001)

Director Tsai Ming-liang likes long panoramic shots. Every scene in this movie lasts at least three minutes, some are much longer. There is no background music. This is the perfect example of minimalism in film. Some will love it and some will surely hate it. There is no formal script, and actors are just given clues as to how they must act in every scene. Tsai Ming-liang explores his most recurrent themes: solitude, dysfunctional families and lack of communication. In this French-Taiwanese production, Lee is a street vendor. One of her customers insists on buying Lee’s own watch. She tells him she is going to Paris on vacations. He starts to daydream about Paris, and one night, after asking the operator on the phone what time it is in Paris, he suddenly feels a need to change the time of every watch or clock he stumbles upon. He sets every clock to time in France. Meanwhile, we are taken to Paris to see how this girl spends her days in the city of lights. Nothing unusual happens because she is alone all the time, she doesn’t speak French and feels somewhat isolated. This is an interesting take on minimalism in film.

02 August 2005

The Machinist (Spain, 2004)

I loved this movie. At first you do not know what to expect. Twenty minutes into the film, right after the terrible accident in the factory, for which Trevor is blamed (Christian Bale) in which a worker loses his arm, and after he declares to her prostitute “girlfriend” that he hasn’t slept in one year, and you see his naked chest resembling a living skeleton or a concentration camp refugee, you cannot take your eyes away from the terrible events that occur, one after another, giving the audience only small hints as to what is really going on. Everything goes downhill for Trevor from this point on.

How can remorse mess someone up and alter his or her life? That is the constant question director Brad Anderson tries to give answer to. And he does this incredibly well, with scenes that keep you going until the very end. Trevor experiences hallucinations and cannot separate them from real life. He even believes his work colleagues are plotting against him. The terrible truth is much simpler, but equally disturbing. This is definitely a must-see.

01 August 2005

Land of the Dead (USA / Canada, 2004)

If George Romero has a preference in filmmaking, that would be zombie movies. His 1968 black & white zombie classic, Day of the Living Dead, earned him worldwide reputation. In this remake, we get to see Romero’s latest interpretation of a world full of zombies, where the few humans left try to survive. New social classes have emerged. The rich live in the tallest building of the city (I believe it’s Chicago) the poor live in the slums around this building, protected from the zombies only by electric wire fences and the military. One ex-military wants a condo in the building. His request is refused by the building authorities. He then seeks revenge by stealing a bus-tank with war missiles. In the meantime, zombies learn how to use weapons, and soon enough a war between “normal” humans and the “stenches” (as they call the zombies) ensues. There are heaps of gore scenes: zombies eating human bodies a plenty, all in the spirit of the 80’s slasher films.