Friday, July 20, 2007

Can I still blame my laziness on the summer? I'm trying to catch up here, so please bear with me...

Movies watched, week of June 24-July 7, 2007

Belle de Jour, Luis Buñuel, 1967

Severine is a woman torn between two worlds, working as a prostitute from two to five and returning to her role as dutiful wife by the time her husband comes home. Buñuel seamlessly hints at the psychology behind her actions through brief flashbacks and surreal dream sequences—fleeting memories of sexual advances from an older man and refusing Communion, and daydreams of horse-drawn carriage rides ending in various forms of erotically charged acts of degradation. Severine feigns disgust at her customers’ sexual fetishes, yet she sought out the place—she must enjoy it on some level, yet isn’t willing to entirely abandon her role as prim and proper society woman.

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Sam Peckinpah, 1974

When a piano player named Bennie learns of a reward placed on the head of Alfredo Garcia (whom his hooker girlfriend knows a little too well, if you catch my meaning), he tries to outrun the bounty hunters who are also after the elusive Alfredo, who we never get to know below the neck. The gradual breakdown of Bennie’s sanity is compellingly accomplished, as he begins to talk to the rotting, fly-infested head in the passenger’s seat, but I would have loved to see even more surrealism employed, the head beginning to talk back to him.

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Jim Jarmusch, 1999

Jarmusch’s subtle sense of humor is in full display in this tale of a mafia hit-man who communicates by homing pigeon and models himself after a samurai warrior. His best friend, a Haitian ice cream vendor named Louie, speaks only French, while Ghost Dog speaks only English—throughout the film, the two unwittingly utter the same phrases in their own language, my favorite running joke.

Hype!, Doug Pray, 1996

I watched this documentary on the "Seattle sound" only for the Dead Moon footage. As expected, there was a lot of fast-forwarding going on, through awful performances by the likes of Gas Huffer (ha) and Crackerbash (?).

The Bridge, Eric Steel, 2006

A film crew spent all of 2004 taping the Golden Gate Bridge from various angles, capturing the 24 suicides that occurred that year—that’s one every couple of weeks, which, to me, is astounding. (For those who challenge their ethics, the crew notified authorities whenever they suspected someone of planning to jump, and actually prevented a few). What’s particularly disturbing about many of these moments is the nonchalance that seems to surround them. The jumpers appear to be casually making their way across the bridge, going about their business—and then suddenly they’re climbing over the railing and leaping to their deaths. One man spent the last minutes of his life on his cell phone, even laughing at one point. Perhaps he’s saying his goodbyes, but he looks so casual, that when he hangs up and moments later is hurtling into oblivion, the unexpected turn of events is startling.

Supervixens, Russ Meyer, 1975

This gloriously raunchy, campy movie is quintessential Russ Meyer, featuring a psychotic cop, big breasted vixens (hence the title, all of their names begin with “Super”), and a ridiculously over the top electrocution scene. After he’s falsely pinned for his wife’s murder, Clint Ramsey flees town and is attacked by voluptuous, horny women the whole way—the poor schmuck’s not even interested half the time. His dead wife, Super Angel, begins to show up again, covered in blood but looking sexy as ever, usually perched on top of a mountain and laughing derisively—it’s ambiguous as to whether she’s a ghost, a hallucination, or something else entirely, but an explanation isn’t really necessary.

George Washington, David Gordon Green, 2000

Somewhat reminiscent of Killer of Sheep, particularly in its scenes of children playing, this impressive debut is alive with striking colors and images—George in his superhero costume, Buddy reciting a monologue in an alligator mask—generating an elegant, dreamlike embodiment of youth.

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