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Archive for the ‘movie notes’ Category

Notes on a Few Films

Tenebre– 2nd time watching this, and still not sure if I like it or not. It lacks the visuals of a Suspiria or Deep Red (a movie Im trying to get off Blockbuster Online but apparently I have to wait 100 years), or Inferno. There is a fine twist in the end, even though I partly suspected it all along. There are some great murder scenes as well: Peter Neal’s fiance getting her hand chopped off, then spraying blood all over the wall, or the escapade with the vicious dog chasing the girl all the way into the killer’s lair. Plenty of throats getting slit, and even a fake throat slashing in the end. Another perhaps weak link is the score, which may be just a matter of opinion anyway. I absolutely love Goblin’s work in Suspiria and Deep Red, adding even more frenzied layers to those movies, but in Tenebre, the music just didn’t seem as inspired to me. Grade: B-

The Orphanage– This movie is insanely good, utterly captivating, almost a ghost story about absent ghosts. It’s more about paranoia and guilt than about the supernatural. But you dont know that until the end. Ghosts haunt for sure, but maybe all they are are memories, echoes from the past. Awaiting dissolution. The motif of the treasure hunt is subtly used throughout this film to highlight the idea that ghosts speak in riddles. And that clues in the game lead to answers, and that answers lead to revelations. In this case, the revelation is as poignantly sad as anything I can remember in a film, although my memory isn’t world-class.  From our human perspective, only melancholy is the truly honest  bend to the lense. Grade: A

The Spiral Staircase– saw this on TCM the other night, without much hope for a spectacular viewing experience for a horror movie made in 1945. But I was somewhat suprised here, although I can’t say I was utterly impressed with the film. It definitely had its moments. And might as well be the missing link from film noir/B&W horror classics to the giallo and slasher genres to come much later. Although no outright slashings occur (the method of murder is audience-friendly strangulation), there is a considerable number of brutal murders here, and all of them, women. Had to of been a milestone for American film. {will check to see if not a British made movie} I know that M, by Fritz Lang came ealier, and dealt with a serial killer. And i havent seen the hitchcock movie about jack the ripper. As one of the hosts for The Essentials mentioned, “Inky Black” helps to make this movie effective. But also the generalized creepiness of the cottage, the neverending thunderstorm, the almost goofily psychic old woman, who senses that one of her own sons is the killer. The characters are nicely drawn and devoid– mostly– of melodrama. The quirky Mrs. Oates is a nice minor character, who has some delightful drunken moments. The red herrings are laid out like clockwork, but the killer’s identity was way too easily discovered. And thank god for small miracles: Helen got her voice back! Grade: B

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The Bridge Revisited

A few weeks ago I watched a documentary called The Bridge. And of
course it made me think of my mother, and her own bizarre, and vio-
lent, suicide. Here in this film we see a series of sad souls– seeking
some desperate and morbid last poetic impulse in their lives– who
come to this scenic site (indeed most beautifully captured in its shrouds
of fog and brilliant sun-lit hues) as final tourists on our mortal plane.
Maybe they chose this place not only for its beauty but also for its
popularity. Finally these lost, dejected souls can join a club that will
never renounce their membership. Here they will forever belong.


This is reality television at its finest. Our hearts are churned up with
emotion while at the same time our voyeuristic needs are thoroughly
satisfied. This is definitely high brow oprah winfreyesque intrusional
fair, only far more understated, better crafted, and dare I say, more
sincere. There is in its choppy editting a conscious effort to be un-
sentimental, and to honestly seek out the reasons, varied and con-
flicted, why people choose self-annililation. Of course mental illness
nearly always is the focal point, the dark heart of the act. These are
folks that just can’t handle anymore the demands of cold reality.
These are folks who continually lay their own roadblocks to recovery.
Their world becomes an unnavigable maze. It’s time to jump ship.
   My mother’s suicide could not have been more different than for
instance Gene Sprague’s. He’s the black maned Maldoror we see sculpt-
ed by the wind, pacing back and forth on Golden Gate and certainly, to
be fair to the filmmakers, is not an obvious threat for imminent suicide.
Of all the people filmed taking the glorious plunge, his is the most
elaborate fall, the most self-consciously staged. This man had art in
his blood. Somehow he failed to find his medium. Truthfully, and what
turns out to be the biggest failure of this movie, we never learn a damn
thing about this man. He had plenty of friends. But still felt isolated.
We never see his face, no we don’t know if he was burdened with a ugly
or attractive face (these things can be vital to a person’s sanity). We
are drawn into his mystery and forced to feel deep pity for him.
But do we really know him? Maybe he did something so horrible he
couldn’t live with himself. Have we been conned into feeling an in-
authentic emotion for someone we never knew, nor will ever know?
   When I was a boy we lived in the Bay Area, and one weekend after-
noon our family went on one of our daylong driving trips to some scenic
place or other in northern california. All those beautiful colors come
back to me sometimes, haunt me. Split pea soup in a roadside restaur-
ant, bare hills so yellow and lakes so intensely blue you think you were
in a disney animation movie. But this trip Im recalling now was to go
across the Golden Gate Bridge. No one wanted to do it, but me. I begged
till my mother and step-father relented. As we drew closer my mother
begin to show her nervousness. She wanted to turn around. She had a
deep phobia of crossing bridges. But usually we crossed them anyway.
But this bridge, with its red imposing massiveness, was too much for her.
We had to turn around. She wouldn’t let us cross it. I’ve never crossed
the Golden Gate Bridge. It lives like a fairy tale still in my mind.

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Transsiberian: why no hyphen or space in the title? seems odd. All in all I liked this movie, although not as much as Roger Ebert. For his take, check out:

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080814/REVIEWS/808140304

 Some very good acting here, except for maybe Woody Harrleson, who played his character a bit over-the-top. Still not bad, however. A special nod for Emily Mortimer’s performance. Having not really read the movie description on the back of the DVD, I was pleasantly suprised at several of the plot twists. We can never really pinpoint the villians until really the very end. Grinko is cast as a perennial good cop, but as we learn in the end, has a bit of a dark side as well.

    The most interesting character in the movie, is Jessie. This movie is successful mostly because of her, and the fine performance of Mortimer. The scene at the condemned church is the highlight of the film, the most unexpected, and in a weird way, disconnected, scene in the entire movie. In terms of the plotline, this extra bit of drama is not really necessary. And one of the problems I find with this movie is her ultimate redemption from her actions there at the end of the movie, when  Carlos’s past is revealed.

Even though Jessie blatantly went overboard in murdering Carlos, her womans’ intuition is proven just and correct, for it just so happens Carlos is a convicted sexual offender. Jessie clearly overreacted to Carlos’s actions, but she just so happened to have the right instinct there. Seems a bit too cute. Maybe he was going to rape her, maybe not.

Another minor quibble– and I understand with movies you have to sometimes suspend disbelief– is with Carlos’s body not being found by the cops. They knew in well enough time that something went down at the church, and would have had plenty of means to discover the body. If not, then what about the wolves? Grade: B+

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