Monthly Archives: May 2008

A big ol’ slice of the mid 70’s

What’s the best way to spend a bank holiday Monday?

The answer of course is to lock yourself away and watch a triple bill that covers a film from each of the following years…..

The year you were concieved (you can guess if it’s borderline)
The year you were born
And the year of your first birthday.

There’s no real reason for this. For me, it was just an excuse to watch 3 films from the mid 70’s. And what a nice little journey it took me on:


The above clip is obviously the title sequence and I love it to bits. Not only do the gharish colours work, they REEK of cool. This is the first taste of blaxploitation cinema I’ve had, outside of SHAFT (1971) and SUPERFLY (1972).

Pam Grier is Foxy Brown with Antonio Fargas playing her brother Link. Link is to blame for every scrape foxy gets into in this picture, I’ll not say too much as the film should be watched, get it on your lovefilm lists. the scene below is the famous lesbian bar fight scene. A working girl Foxy is trapped with finds herself in a bit of a jam, in steps Foxy, job done. What’s great is the 70’s stereotyping of the lesbian look, real tasty.


This Claude Chabrol film from the year of my birth takes a lot of stick. There are also no clips of it on youtube. The picture follows the marriage of Phillipe and Esther. The couple appear to have a happy relationship at the start of the picture but his narcissistic, domineering personality eventually drives them apart.

This is not a film for the faint hearted. Phillipe is a devoted father and you want to give him credit for it but he is also an absolute beast towards his gentle wife who, although being kinda nice, does herself no favours by being so docile it is hard to sympathise with her too much. Permitted infedelity is soon brought into play with Phillipe seeming blase about the fact his wife is sleeping with another man whilst at the same time trying to control and belittle her. It is a very complex look at married life alongside the amplified failings of man. Not for everyone, probably not a picture for repeat viewings but it merits a go.

NETWORK (1976)

Following my blog on 12 ANGRY MEN a few days ago I finished my 70’s triple with Sidney Lumet’s NETWORK. I’m really gettin into Lumet’s work, it has a real honesty that doesn’t need to dress itself up as anything other than a look at the truth. NETWORK is as relevant today as it was in 1976. The feeling of anger, the suspicion surrounding what we’re fed by the cathode ray tv tube and the decisions driving what we see on it have not changed. Not one bit. the 2 clips below show Howard Beal preaching to the nation. To him it’s truth, it’s an attempt to show the American public the light, or at least a glimmer of it. To the network chiefs he’s a circus sideshow….. Enjoy.


Monty Got a Raw Deal

Lauren and her class are curently doing a project on “The 50’s” to celebrate the decade her school was built. As the teacher dished out the areas of study, Lauren stuck her hand enthusiastically into the air. “Can I do movies” she asked, “Of course” said her teacher, taken aback by her insistance. And so starts a crash course of the movies she hasn’t seen…… or at least a few of them. We went through her favourite pictures of the decade….. SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959) REAR WINDOW (1954) and THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY (1955) were discussed at length. Being Hitchcock fans, we watched another of his 50’s productions this morning, I CONFESS (1953)

The film stars Montgomery Clift as father Michael Logan, a priest who is burdened with a confession that threatens to bring him down but one which he can’t reveal due to his commitment the confessional seal. The way the film opens is classic Hitchcock. We are given a place, a murder and a confession, all within the first 6 minutes. What follows in an intensive police investigation to find the killer, Father Logan himself becomes a suspect.

Montgomery Clift led a tragic life. The product of an abusive father, he was a man very quickly thrust into the Hollywood limelight. He struggled immensely with his sexuality before suffering horrific injuries in a car crash (which required his face to be rebuilt) then slowly burnt out through drink and drugs. his death in 1966, aged only 45, is commonly referred to as “the longest suicide in history”. Despite appearing in only 18 features he worked with the best in the business, Hitchcock, Hawks, Huston, Kazan, Wyler and Vittoria De Sica amongst others.

Check out the opening of the picture below. As I said earlier the whole thing is set up in the first 6 minutes. Look out for Hitch getting in on the act also. A nice Senses Of Cinema piece on I CONFESS can be seen here.


12 Men, One Room and a Question

I’m assuming a lot of people have seen this film but I felt compelled to say something about it. It’s one of those pictures that had been in my collection for months but getting round to it had always been blocked by something. About 5 weeks ago I put it on and, before the credits even started to roll, I got a huge pang of guilt because I hadn’t seen Kurosawa’s RASHOMON (1950) so that went on…. More on that later. A few weeks later I stuck it in a bag, amongst some others to take through to Jamie Stone’s with the intention of watching it on his projector, to give it some big screen respect. Much to my delight we ended up watching THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963) which was very fitting for the shoot we were doing but, again, prevented me from watching it. Last night I was about to start watching 3 COLOURS: BLUE (1993) (which again, is a picture I’m ashamed not to have seen) when this movie demanded to be seen….. the film I speak of is, of course, Sidney Lumet’s 12 ANGRY MEN (1957).

Never before did I think a picture set in one room be so absolutely riveting. All facets of American life and society are around the table as part of a jury given the task of deciding if a kid is guilty of 1st degree murder. Henry Fonda plays Juror number 8…. we never find out his name, or most of their names. Fonda is the only man to vote not guilty in the first round of voting. Names do not matter in this scenario, all that matters is what each man represents and how that representation forms his opinion of the case. The film is beautifully shot by Boris Kaufman who also captured the natural anger of Lee J. Cobb in ON THE WATERFRONT (1954) his camera movements (and choice of lenses) during the exchanges at the table are such that, as the picture progresses we are drawn closer and closer to this claustrophobic situation.

This movie is probably on a million “movies to see before you die” lists…. For once I agree with them. The scene below is a great exchange between Fonda and Cobb. I’ll not say to much about it as the action speaks well enough for itself.

Morning Oblivion

I thought I’d treat myself to a bit of a long lie this morning and took in LIVING IN OBLIVION (1995), A Tom DiCillo film starring Cathering Keener and Steve Buscemi. It’s a movie about low budget film making and the stresses and pitfalls that come with working in that sector of the business. I think they do very well to capture the feel of a film set as well as showing the experience from a range of different viewpoints

Steve Buscemi is, of course, best known for being Mr Pink in PULP FICTION, his lesser known work is well worth checking out also. TREES LOUNGE (1996) is a film he directed as well as starred in. It’s not everone’s cup of tea due to the slow pace of the picture but it’s well worth investing some time in. IN THE SOUP (1992) was made in the same year as RESERVOIR DOGS and is very cool. Look out for further appearences in DEAD MAN (1995), NEW YORK STORIES (1989), COFFEE AND CIGARETTES (2003) and GHOST WORLD (2001) … All these films are nestled amongst movies such as the likes of ARMAGEDDON (1999) and MONSTORS INC (2001) which shows his versatility.
My favourite Cathering Keener film would have to be CAPOTTE (2005) where she is the calming influence of Nelle Harper Lee, a performance that won her numerous nominations including the Oscar and BAFTA awards for best supporting actress. She has also caught my eye in 8MM (1999) and BEING JOHN MALKOVICH (1999)
Getting back to LIVING IN OBLIVION, it’s worth a watch. People who don’t make films will be asking “Why do they put themselves through that?” ….. Those of us who do make films will no doubt be asking the same thing. In this scene, which I find HILLARIOUS, Director Nick Reve (Played by Buscemi) has to deal with a “difficult” actor.

It’s my birthday, sue me.

So, today I turn 33. According to many it should freak me out but considering my 20’s were nothing but a dull blur, I’m really only 23…. Yes, I mean it. There’s a really guff song that’s played at rubbish 40th’s called It’s My Party (and I’ll cry if I want to)…… So in the tradition of that song I’m going to post a clip that is purely for my pleasure, nothing else. if you like the film, great. If you enjoy the scene, I’m pleased. if you dislike either, SCREW YOU…. today is my show. Normal business will resume tomorrow. …. To set the scene….. The film is ANIMAL CRACKERS (1930) and Groucho and Chico are discussing how to recover the missing painting…. 3 words…… WATCH THIS MOVIE!

….. And in 70mm….

On Saturday May 24th the filmhouse in Edinburgh are showing 2001: A Space Oddysey on screen 1…. impressive? Yes. Exciting? Yes. What really gives this piece of information some balls is it’s being shown on a 70mm print! ….. It’s like Christmas has come early.

I showed Lauren, my 9 year old daughter, this film over a year ago and she still remembers it vividly, “I like the scene where the man calls his daughter on earth via the videophone for her birthday” she tells me tonight. It’s kinda cute that a minor part of the movie immediately springs to mind.
For all the philosophising and intellectualising that can be done about this film, and lets face it, there’s been an abundance of writings on the subject, there’s nothing better than admiring the sheer beauty of the picture.

I find it hard to fault this film. It’s a film I like to watch when I come in at night drunk and feel the need to fill my head with images to feed dreams. When it’s on you can close your eyes and let the sound take you on a journey very similar but altogether different and subjective. Lauren describes the ending as “that weird bit I can’t quite get.”… Some people use similar words to describe the whole movie. I’ve selected an obvious clip but you can’t help but love it, and of course it includes that jump cut.

Technicolor Bliss

Well, the preparation has been done, the sets have been built and the film has been shot. Jamie Stone’s THE PITTS should be a thing of beauty, of course I would say that, being an art director on the picture. Self congratulation aside, I think, the man has done a wonderful job and it should do REALLY well on the festival circuit. As soon as I’m allowed to post it, I will.

At the end of my last day on set, which was yesterday, I decided to take in a film rather than hit the booze, the selection for the evening was Douglas Sirk’s HAS ANYBODY SEEN MY GAL (1952). Prior to this the only Sirk film I’d seen was ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS (1955), which, like this one, stars Rock Hudson as the love interest. I’m becoming a big fan of Sirks work, the vivid technicolor world he

photographs is filled with dark stories of lifes all too familiar underbelly. Between 1950 and 1959 Sirk directed no less than 22 features, most of which were disregarded as trivial upon their release. On the evidence I’ve seen from only 2 of his films, there’s a lot more going on than initially meets the eye. Both the films mentioned above have a black undercurrent of social intollerance, greed and prejudice, interesting considering they were both made within a decade of the 2nd World War.
On the face of it however, they look like lavish, technicolor dreamworlds. I can’t recomend them enough.
This first clip is from HAS ANYBODY SEEN MY GAL where Milicent reveals she’s engaged to Dan Stebbins, much to the disgust of her materialistic mother. Although he only has 2 lines, Charles Coburn steals the show.

Also check out this scene from ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS. Notice the way that Sirk place the screen between the mother and her son as she discusses her relationship with Ron. It’s a fantastic piece of framing laden with metaphor.

I’ll post more on this guy as I see more of his stuff. If you’ve got a Lovefilm account, get some Sirk on your list.