Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Capturing Romanian family life, minus mom: Teodora Ana Mihai's WAITING FOR AUGUST


Watching WAITING FOR AUGUST, the fine new documentary from Romanian filmmaker Teodora Ana Mihai, is a bit like going back in time to the days of those old-fashioned documentaries that simply watched their subjects carefully, without comment, with a camera that finally appears all but invisi-ble to the participants. Of coure, that camera never really is invisi-ble, but making it seem so -- via the direc-tor's being remarkably unobtrusive and/or becoming almost a part of what s/he is observing -- goes a long way toward that invisibility.

It is via this fly-on-the-wall manner that Mihai (shown at left) brings us into the life of a Romanian family of seven children, the mother of whom (there is no father present) has taken a job in Italy in order to make enough money to take care of her children. It has fallen upon the eldest daugh-ter, Georgiana (below), just turning 15, to act as "parent" to her siblings. A question never raised directly, but one that hangs over the film, is: Why is not more of this chore relegated to the family's eldest son (who looks older than Georgi-ana and seems capable of doing a hell of lot more than he clearly is)?

TrustMovies is just going by what he's seen in the many Romanian movies he's watched over the past decade since the Romanian new wave hit us -- from The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and Police, Adjective to Tuesday, After Christmas and If IWant to Whistle, I'll Whistle -- movies that, time after time, offer up men who've never grown into their own autonomy, often under the tutelage of women enablers (see Child Pose for the very best/worst example of this enabling).

Now, we can't just blame the gals for this (though, in Waiting for August, one wonders why the missing mom did not insist that her eldest son get off his ass and help). After all, living under the dictatorship of the Ceaușescus and Mother Russia certainly did not do Romanian autonomy any favors. So young Georgiana, who should be living out her adolescence and first love and all the rest, is instead overseeing the shopping and cooking and cleaning (below) and ironing (what is being used as an ironing board offers a quite telling detail).

Ms Mihai and her cinematographer are given to using a widescreen image full of lovely design and composition -- watch for the scene of the storm -- despite the subject being full of poverty and blight. This is an easy movie to view, even if its situation is somewhat dire. Though Georgiana appears to be doing as good a job as possible, there is still a threat from a local nun to sic authorities on the family because of mom's absence, not to mention the angry father of one of her schoolmates who has threatened to attack Georgiana on her way home from school.

The filmmaker's preferred style seems to be extended scenes involving the family, especially featuring Georgiana, that keep us thoroughly in the moment with these kids. We see mom via Skype (below) and overhear her conversations on the telephone, even as everything from the TV to the computer seems to be going on the fritz. No wonder mom needs to work in a country where a better salary is paid.

Over the years, we've not seen many documentaries from Romania. Perhaps we haven't needed them, given the highly documentary style of so many of the narrative films that make this little country seem all too real/depressing.

We spend about one year with this family, and because of the many strong details Mihai provides, we get a picture of the kind of close-knit family life that perseveres: the young boy Stelian's "wish" for the tooth he loses, Georgiana's date at the local fair,  the popularity of Spanish (or Latin American) telenovelas on Romanian TV, the old woman downstairs who is supposed to be looking in on the kids, Georgiana studying (with constant interruptions from the younger kids) then relaxing at the local pool (below, right) with her girlfriends.

Finally it's August, and the family treks to the airport to wait and maybe greet their mother. But will Mom actually return? The kids -- and we -- wait on tenterhooks. This unusual documentary -- running 89 minutes -- opens theatrically in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Royal this Friday, October 3, and in New York City at the Quad Cinema on Friday. October 10. To check for any further scheduled screenings, in the U.S. or abroad, click here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

WEDLOCK: Vimeo/FilmBuff's five-minute fun sessions by Ross Partridge and Josh Perilo


TrustMovies has so far devoted his time to movies of the foreign, independent and documentary type, with the occasional foray into cable TV (mostly of the foreign sort). And yet "content" -- that all-purpose word now used to refer to just about anything made to entertain, inform, move or amuse us -- has suddenly become so prevalent and all-over-the place (it's everywhere you look) that it behooves me to occasionally cover something different and perhaps more au courant. Today, because I am particularly taken with the three lead performers, I've just viewed WEDLOCK, a series of ten five-minute episodes about two people -- (Jennifer Lafleur and Mark Duplass) who visit a well-known and much-loved therapist (Rob Corddry) who is famous for his wonderful counseling involving couples.

Seemingly made for a quick watch on your mobile device when you need a few great laughs (and this series will provide them), Wedlock -- written by Josh Perilo and directed by Ross Partridge (shown at left) -- initially moves like a house afire, dropping its premise in your lap and leaving you gasping for air at the very effrontery of the concept, while amazed at the skill of the performers in bringing it to fine, funny life. Really, the first few tiny episodes should have you speeding right on to the next. And the next. Until...

OK: Things begin to go a bit downhill around the halfway point or just after. Nothing major bad, mind you. You'll still laugh pretty consistently, but some of the truly creative stuff that happens early on seems to have disappeared.

The first half of these episodes are so funny, odd and surprising -- dealing with everything from the initial premise (a hoot and a half) to cross-dressing, doll play, ex-girlfriends and a very special "home-made" manual (above) -- that the final ones break little new ground and instead seem to have been created more out of the simple need to fill the rest of the time slots than anything else.

Fortunately the cast is first-rate. Lafleur and Duplass (above, left to right) are fine actors and good comedians, too, and they keep things rolling along. Corddry (three photos up and below, center) is, as usual, an extraordinary delight and one of the funniest "straight men" ever. Also in the mix are Ed Begley, Jr. and Katie Aselton to provide even more laughs and fun.

So do take a chance on Wedlock -- a co-production of Vimeo-on-Demand and FilmBuff. I promise you enough laughs and creativity to make the short time and little money spent (approximately 40 cents per episode) worth your while. You can access the whole schmear by clicking here. (The price is a mere four bucks if you buy the entire series, but it's one buck each if you order à la carte.)

Monday, September 29, 2014

The best deal online: Watch Clark Gregg's terrific TRUST ME on iTunes for just one buck!


Normally I don't hawk deals like this -- but iTunes' offer to let you see one of this year's best films for just one dollar -- Clark Gregg's TRUST ME -- is too good to pass up.  This funny, moving, strange and original look at Hollywood's underside, as well as a rather thoughtful, even profound, inquiry into why so many of us so desperately crave the place and what it produces, is a rich and wonderful piece of work. My original review of the film appears here (should you need to read more), so today I'll just highlight this worthwhile opportunity. The movie's cast is aces -- particularly Mr Gregg and his co-star, Saxon Sharbino, who gives an unforgettable performance. Trust Me is available at this great price for one week only, beginning tomorrow, September 30. Click here to get started....

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Himmler on Himmler: Vanessa Lapa's THE DECENT ONE offers case study in self-delusion


As World War II came to a close and America and the Allies took over Germany, a group of American soldiers entered the home of Nazi Gestapo chief Heinrich Himmler and in their "browsing" discovered hundreds of personal letters, diaries and photos. What, exactly, then happened to all this is unclear. The soldiers by law had to hand over anything and everything they found to the proper authorities. But this group did not. Supposedly the cache found its way to Israel and was hidden in Tel Aviv for decades, only to surface a few years ago when it was sold to the father of the woman, Vanessa Lapa, who has now made a documentary, her first, about these unusual findings.

Ms Lapa, shown at right, has titled her film THE DECENT ONE (Der Anständige), from a comment made by Himmler in one of his letters to his wife: "We can have one desire as to what is said about us: These German officers, these German soldiers -- they were decent." Unfortunately doing the "decent" thing under the Third Reich meant wiping out Jews and homosexuals (whom Himmler manages to mention within the same sentence in another letter), among others like the Romani/gypsies. Ms Lapa has organized her documentary as a kind of history of Himmler (shown above and in some of the photos below) and his life, framed by chapters that lead off with one quote or another from this infa-mous genocidal maniac -- whom Hannah Arendt found to be a stand-in for the banality of evil, a point which this new film would seem to underscore.

What, pray tell, is more banal than the hypocrisy residing in human beings of all sorts? Which we then use self-delusion to cover up. Of course, when we live in a society that is itself hugely self-deluded (as was Nazi Germany, and as is, to a somewhat lesser extent, America today), this is all the easier to accomplish.

In The Decent One, we see little Heinrich as a boy (above), as a young man, as a soldier and family man (below), and then finally as a military leader. Along with this, as a constant and growing counterpoint, Ms Lapa has chosen to use visuals that show -- even as Himmler or his wife are babbling on as though they're "just plain folk" -- what the Germans were actually doing to the Jews at the time. (This "folksiness" alternates with the kind of anti-Semetic blather that could easily be used as a recruiting film for would-be Neo-Nazis.)

This juxtaposition of the verbiage of "decency" against the horrific visual acts of genocide is stark and appalling, all right, but it is used so often and so heavy-handedly that eventually -- except, I expect, for the very young or those untutored in Holocaust history -- it becomes a kind of overkill: uber-obvious and very nearly insulting to the intelligence. (Or maybe I'm just being hypocritical and self-deluding.)

For heavy-duty film-goers who have seen and heard about the Holocaust and the evils of Nazi Germany down the decades since WWII, what is the difference, I wonder, in now hearing/seeing all this in a high-ranking Nazi's own words? Not much, I'm afraid.

There is a certain frisson in realizing that we are hearing the actual words of this man rather than some screenwriter's imagining of what he might have sounded like. But since it is all mostly the expected drivel -- "We're creating a glorious master race!" (see above) -- that spark soon dies.

The self-delusion angle here is so obvious and has been seen in so many other narrative and documentary films that it seems there is little more to mine. I suppose that we can not see and hear too often or too loudly of the horrors the Holocaust brought, but I do wonder if an even more interesting movie might have been made about the details of the journey this cache of papers and photos made from Germany to Israel -- with whom, how, why, when and where.

How much money, dare we ask, did Ms Lapa's dad pay for all this? And exactly what does this treasure trove of "Himmleriana" signify for him? Whatever else it has done, the cache seems to have given a jump-start to Ms Lapa's film-making career. It will be interesting to see what she tackles next.

Meanwhile, The Decent One -- from Kino Lorber and running 94 minutes --has its NYC premiere this coming Wednesday, October 1, at Film Forum for a two-week run. The following Friday, October 10, it opens in L.A. at Laemmle's Music Hall 3, and in Santa Barbara at the Plaza De Oror Twin on October 22. Click here and scroll down to view further playdates.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

At FIAF's CinéSalon, a month of the films of the late Alain Resnais: Time, Memory, Imagination


In the spirit of French ciné-clubs and literary salons, FIAF’s CinéSalon program -- pairing an engaging film with a post-screening wine reception, with each evening screening thoughtfully introduced by a high-profile personality in the arts -- will begin a new series on September 30 (continuing throughout all of October) that honors the late, great filmmaker Alain Resnais (shown, right, at work toward the end of his career, and below in former times). M. Resnais, who died earlier this year just short of his 92nd birthday, while a seminal figure of the French New Wave, was not, like so many of his contemporaries, an alumnus of the film journal Cahiers du Cinema. In the words of the CinéSalon literature, Resnais "existed closer to Left Bank intellectualism, well outside of the sphere of filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, and Jacques Rivette, with a dedication to formalism, modernist concerns, and social and political issues not found in the work of his fellow innovators. Focusing repeatedly on themes of time and memory, Resnais drew from the well of serious literature to offer a singular philosophical and artistic vantage point, employing enigmatic narrative structures, lush cinematography, and lyrical editing patterns to create some of the most provocative and controversial work of the period."

TrustMovies has now seen just about every film -- save most of the early documentaries -- that this fellow made, and has looked forward to each new one with great anticipation. Resnais never made an uninteresting movie; even his least successful -- try 1989's I Want to Go Home, written by Jules Feiffer! -- were crazy, fascinating fun. With the new restoration of his second masterpiece, Hiroshima Mon Amour (Night and Fog was his first), together with his newest (and last) work, Life of Riley,(Aimer, boire et chanter) both about to make their U.S. debut during the current New York Film Festival, this proves a most opportune time for a mini-Resnais retrospective.

Even more important, to celebrate Resnais, the five films to be shown at FIAF's Florence Gould Hall could not have been better chosen to give a sense of the breadth and depth of this man's work. Below is a listing of the films -- with FIAF's comments on the films followed by short paragraph with TrustMovie's take on each --  together with the date and times of their screenings. Don't miss this wonderful opportunity to discover, or more probably view again, five true masterworks.


Alain Resnais: 
Time, Memory & Imagination
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Je t’aime je t’aime 
Tuesday, September 30 at 4 & 7:30pm 
35mm 1968. Color. 94 min. With Claude Rich, Anouk Ferjac, Olga Georges-Picot, Alain MacMoy. In French with English subtitles. 

Claude Ridder has nothing left to lose when two strangers recruit him to be the first human participant in their time travel experiment. Sent back one year Claude revisits a past love. But reality becomes opaque as his vague memories mesh with his current experiences in Resnais’ ahead-of-its-time drama. “One of Mr. Resnais’s lesser-known masterworks”—The New York Times

TrustMovies had not seen this relatively early Resnais until now, and what a "find" it is. What fun it is, too, seeing actor Claude Rich (above and below) again as a young man. Here, M. Resnais, always the playful guy, had quite a novel idea about time travel: Going back to the past is simply a matter of accessing memory! The time travel involves the workplace and vacations, loneliness and solitude, even suicide, murder and -- yes -- mice! Mostly, though, it's about guilt, and that utterly messy situation we call love. A film that was way ahead of its time, Je t'aime, je t'aime will still keep you alert and jumping as you watch it today.
A free wine reception following each screening.

The 7:30pm screening will be introduced by director Radley Metzger.
About Radley Metzger: Writer, Producer, Director Radley Metzger was most recently the subject of a retrospective at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, which included his cult classics Score, Camille 2000, The Image, and many others. Metzger also received a retrospective at the Museum of the Moving Image. He has lectured at the Museum of Modern Art, and at Eastman House in Rochester, New York.

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Mon oncle d’Amérique 
Tuesday, October 7 at 4 & 7:30pm 
35mm 1980. Color and B&W. 125 min. With Gérard Depardieu, Nicole Garcia, Roger Pierre, Nelly Borgeaud. In French with English subtitles.

Professor Henri Laborit uses the stories of three people—René, a manager at a textile factory; Janine, an actress; Jean, a writer and politician—to explore issues such as survival, combat, punishment, and anxiety in this didactic comedy that earned Resnais the Grand Prize at the 1980 Cannes Film Festival. “An exhilarating fiction!”—The New York Times

One of my favorite of all the Resnais films, I've seen this several times over the decades. It's so full of ideas and humor and surprise that everything seems to tumble over itself into strangeness and delight. A good cast help things, too, and yes, there are mice once again. Not to be missed if you haven't seen it; and if it's been awhile, you'll probably want to give the film another viewing,

Free wine reception following each screening.
7:30pm screening will be introduced by neuroscientist Leah Kelly.
About Leah Kelly: New York-based neuroscientist Leah Kelly is currently at Rockefeller University where she uses electrophysiology and optogenetics to map the neural circuitry underlying appetite. She has consulted and spoken on various projects at the intersection of art and science for organizations including the Palais de Tokyo and Villa Gillet, and is currently making a short film about synesthesia.

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Wild Grass 
(Les Herbes Folles)
Tuesday, October 14 at 4 & 7:30pm 
35mm 2009. Color. 104 min. With André Dussolier, Sabine Azéma, Emmanuelle Devos, Anne Consigny. In French with English subtitles. 

Wild Grass tells the story of Georges, a middle-aged married man with a fixation on the attractive, mysterious Marguerite. Adapted from the novel by Christian Gailly. “An extravagant, self-deconstructing, hugely entertaining story of unrequited love.”—The Independent 

My favorite of Resnais' recent work, this adorable, bizarre, challenging film is chock-a-block with ideas and imagination, and is especially gorgeous visually. My original review of the film can be found here, and if you managed to miss its theatrical run or the fine Blu-ray disc, then by all means get to FIAF for a look-see.

Free wine reception following each screening.
The 7:30pm screening will be introduced by Lucius Barre, a colleague of Alain Resnais.
About Lucius Barre: An expert on strategic planning and management of promotional campaigns for new films, filmmakers and companies, Lucius Barre has worked with renowned filmmakers such as Pedro Almodovar, Errol Morris, and Luc and Jean Pierre Dardenne. He worked closely with Alain Resnais for the Cannes premiere and US release of Wild Grass.

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Muriel (Muriel ou le temps d’un retour)
Tuesday, October 21 at 4 & 7:30pm 
35mm 1963. Color. 117 min. With Delphine Seyrig, Jean-Pierre Kérien, Nita Klein. In French with English subtitles. 
Historical trauma is synonymous with personal intrigue in the coastal town of Boulogne when Hélène is visited by a past lover, Alphonse, and her stepson Bernard is haunted by the memory of a girl named Muriel, whom he encountered while doing military service in Algeria. “Subtle, precise, and wrench-ing”—Chicago Reader

When I first saw Muriel at the time of its initial U.S. release, I found it slow and confusing. I was far too young and untutored and thoughtless, really, to deal with a movie this good. When I saw it again, 30 years later, I was overcome. What a film! It may be the filmmaker's best. Dealing with memory and history, and featuring a landmark performance by one of the great actresses of our time, Delphine Seyrig, the film is a keeper in, oh, so many ways.

Free wine reception following each screening.
The 7:30pm guest speaker remains to be announced.

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Providence 
Tuesday, October 28 at 4 & 7:30pm 
DCP 1977. Color. 99 min. With Dirk Bogarde, Ellen Burstyn, John Gielgud, David Warner and Elaine Strich. In English. 

On the eve of his 78th birthday, Clive Langham conceives his last novel as he reminisces about past experiences with members of his family. But is Clive more accurately depicting others or himself? “Splendid and elliptical”—The New York Times Winner of 8 César Awards, including Best Film, Best Director, and Best Screenplay

Providence is another of Resnais' movies that I have not seen since it first opened in the USA. (I have been told that the quality of the video reproductions were simply not good enough for this beautifully shot and produced movie, so I am eager to view the new DCP version that FIAF will screen.) What I recall best about this film are its superb performances from the spectacular cast (listed above) and how it so masterfully weaves present and past. I am most eager to see and savor this film once again.

Free wine reception following each screening.
The 7:30pm screening will be introduced by author, Olivier Barrot.
About Olivier Barrot: A prominent figure in French culture, Olivier Barrot is a journalist, author and television personality. He hosts the daily literary program “Un livre un jour” on France 3 and TV5. His most recent books are Ciné Club (2010), Tout feu tout flamme, La Revue Blanche, and Le Fils Perdu (all in 2012). For the past six years, he has hosted French Literature in the Making at New York University.

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Related Events 


Hiroshima Mon Amour
Friday, October 10, 6pm, Walter Reade Theater 
(165 West 65th Street, north side, upper level) 
DCP Alain Resnais, 1959. Black & White. 92 min. With Emmanuelle Riva, Eiji Okada. In French, Japanese, and English with English subtitles.  

From the FIAF Press release: This modernist masterwork began as a documentary commission from Daiei Studios, secured for Alain Resnais by producer Anatole Dauman. Resnais decided that the bombing of Hiroshima and its impact needed fiction, brought Marguerite Duras onto the project, and worked with her to create a story—of a French film actress (Amour Oscar-nominated Emmanuelle Riva) who goes to Hiroshima to make a film and has an affair with a Japanese architect (Eiji Okada)—that would exist “in two tenses… the present and the past coexist.”

Few films have had such a lasting, wide-ranging impact. Hiroshima, mon amour is a devastating experience on every level: visually, sonically, emotionally, intellectually. Thanks to a new 4K restoration, it can now be seen and heard, once again, in its full glory. Restoration by Argos Films, Fondation Groupama Gan, Fondation Technicolor, and Cineteca Bologna, with support from the CNC. A Rialto Pictures release.


US PREMIERE The Life of Riley
(Aimer, boire et chanter)
Friday, October 10, 9pm, Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street, north side, upper level) Saturday, October 11, 2pm, Francesca Beale Theater, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center (144 West 65th Street, south side) DCP Alain Resnais, 2014. Color. 108 min. With André Dussolier, Sabine Azéma, Michel Vuillermoz, Hippolyte Girardot, Sandrine Kiberlain, Caroline Silhol In French with English subtitles. 

I'll havesomething to say about this film during the week of its theatrical opening. Meanwhile, here's the FIAF "take" on it: Adapted from Alan Ayckbourn’s Relatively Speaking, Life of Riley, the final work by Alain Resnais, is the story of three couples in the English countryside who learn that their close mutual friend is terminally ill. Yet that story is only half the movie, a giddily unsettling meditation on mortality and the strange sensation of simply being alive and going on, feeling by feeling, action by action.

The swift, fleeting encounters between various combinations of characters (played by Resnais regulars André Dussollier and Sabine Azéma—the director’s wife—along with Michel Vuillermoz, Hippolyte Girardot, Sandrine Kiberlain, and Caroline Silhol) take place on extremely stylized sets, and they are punctuated with close-ups set against comic-strip grids, and broken up by images of the real English countryside. Funny but haunting, Life of Riley is a moving, graceful, and surprisingly affirmative farewell to life from a truly great artist. A Kino Lorber release.

Both films are presented as part of the 52nd New York Film Festival.
For more information, visit filmlinc.org.

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En coulisses Cinema Workshops 5:45–7:15pm
To complement the series, FIAF’s Language Center is pleased to offer En coulisses, a series of film appreciation workshops before each 7:30pm screening. After the workshop, students view the film and enjoy a post-screening get-together with a glass of wine. For more information visit: www.fiaf.org/frenchclasses/frenchworkshops-film.shtml

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About FIAF
The French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) is New York’s premiere French cultural and language center. FIAF's mission is to create and offer New Yorkers innovative and unique programs in education and the arts that explore the evolving diversity and richness of French cultures. FIAF seeks to generate new ideas and promote cross cultural dialogue through partnerships and new platforms of expression. www.fiaf.org Merci! Special thanks to Anne-Catherine Louvet (Institut français), Mathieu Fournet (Cultural Services of the French Embassy), Michael Piaker and Michael Di Certo (Sony Pictures Classics), Laura Coxson (Janus Films), and Jake Perlin (The Film Desk). CinéSalon is made possible by the Institut français, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy & the NY State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo & the NY State Legislature. CinéSalon is sponsored by Air France and Delta Air Lines, BNP Paribas, Nespresso, and Sofitel. Wine courtesy of Xavier Wine Company, the exclusive CinéSalon wine sponsor. FIAF Fall 2014 Season Sponsors: Air France and Delta Air Lines, the official airlines of FIAF; Cultural Services of the French Embassy; Florence Gould Foundation; Institut français; National Endowment for the Arts, Art Works; New York State Council on the Arts; NYC Department of Cultural Affairs; French-American Fund for Contemporary Theater, a program of FACE; The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation; and Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater.

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JUST THE FACTS, PLEASE
What: CinéSalon: Alain Resnais: Time, Memory & Imagination
When: Times and titles detailed above. Where: FIAF – Florence Gould Hall, 55 East 59th Street (between Park & Madison Avenues)
Admission: $13; $7 students; Free for FIAF Members Tickets: 800 982 2787
fiaf.org Information: 212 355 6160
fiaf.org Transportation: 4, 5, 6, N, R and Q to 59th Street & Lexington Avenue F to 63rd Street & Lexington Avenue; E to 53rd Street & 5th Avenue Bus - M1, M2, M3, M4, Q32 to 59th Street; M5 to 58th Street

Friday, September 26, 2014

Streaming the 1970s via two bottom-of-the-barrel Bava movies: the Giallo-esque 5 DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON and LISA & THE DEVIL


For anyone who knows Italian director, cinematographer and sometimes writer Mario Bava (above) via his best film Kidnapped (aka Rabid Dogs) or even his most widely-known movie, Black Sunday, streaming some of his lower-end work may come as surprise. Bava did an awful lot of work-for-hire, precisely at the time when the Italian giallo movies were all the rage, and some of these are, well, pretty terrible, though even at their silliest, they contain some nice cinematography and alternately creative and cheesily entertaining moments. So, for film buffs willing to try anything, both of the below might be worth a recommendation.

Giallo queen Edwige Fenech (below and upside down) is prominent in the ensemble cast of 5 DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON (1970), the title of which proves one of the more meaningless in movie history. Yes, I believe there are five corpses in the pantry by movie's end but a couple of these are men, and I don't recall noticing a moon anywhere. Still, you can expect lots of blood and little sense (seemingly a neces-sary combination in far too many of the giallo I've experien-ced) by the time the movie rolls to its end.

The plot plunks down several couples on a tropical island. One fellow, above, is a scientist with a special "formula" the other men want to buy. He won't sell, so murder ensues. The movie opens with shots of a nubile young lass (below) running about and spying on the "adults." Keep her in your view for full plot enjoyment.

Otherwise, it's pretty much the old Ten Little Indians thing, as one after another of our cast falls away. Bava only directed and edited here but had no hand in the screenplay. The movie is pretty, bloody and short (it runs only 78 minutes).  Oh, yes -- and the Netflix transfer is NOT in high definition.


LISA & THE DEVIL (from 1973), on the other hand, is of the classier sort, and runs 95 too-long minutes. It also boasts a hi-def transfer on Netflix and a cast made up of actors who, though definitely slumming, were probably raking in enough money to make it worth their while. These would include the stately and beautiful actress, Alida Valli (below, center), along with bald TV star Telly Savalas (below, right). You might also include Elke Sommer in this group, though Ms Sommer never had quite the career of the other two.

Here we have the story (using this word is quite a stretch) of a pretty tourist (Sommer, clad in an odd combo of blue and green) in Spain, getting off her bus for a look around and discovering Mr. Savalas' devilish image on a mural and then finding him in the flesh in a small shop off the village square.

Frightened, she gets lost and hitches a ride with a wealthy couple and their chauffeur, and when their car breaks down, the quartet finds itself at the mansion of a family for whom Savalas acts as butler. Of course they spend the night, and most of them die by morning.

This is one of those extremely dysfunctional family movies in which one character (Sommer) looks exactly like someone important from the family's past. Saving graces include some titillating nudity, a gorgeous young man (Alessio Orano, above) who plays the Valli character's son, and Savalas, using this nonsense as an opportunity to camp it up rather spectacularly -- for maximum audience enjoyment.

Bava had a hand in the screenplay of this one (no great shakes). The movie relies far too much on repetitive and silly visual "effects" that may have been a bit new in their time but by now just look faintly ridiculous. Still, for those inclined, both films can now be streamed -- along with an amazing amount of other giallo movies -- via Netflix.