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film

This category contains 53 posts

The Naked Prey (Wilde, 1966)

The parable of the hunter finding himself the hunted is virtually timeless in origin. It’s so fundamental in its reversal that the scenario exudes immediate visceral appeal. Cornel Wilde’s co-option has root in the ordeal of one John Colter, an erstwhile associate of Lewis & Clark who escaped from Blackfoot Indians in the early-19th century. [...]

Meeting Andrei Tarkovsky

Meeting Andrei Tarkovksy, 2008
written, edited, directed by Dmitry Trakovsky
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In 2006 a UC Santa Cruz film student chose to jump at loose inspiration. Loose, because perhaps the most profound Tarkovsky-related influence on Dmitry Trakovsky (D.T. for convenience, given the similarity in surnames) was the very existence of certain movies within his father’s film collection. [...]

A Note On the Films of Jordan Belson

The more I continue to work in films the clearer the idea becomes that movement is inherent in graphics, even in still graphics. Many of the means by which I have obtained motion on film, ..is a matter of extracting motion from designs that were not intended for that purpose, but just normally contained motion [...]

Play Dirty (de Toth, 1968)

“War is Hell” has been the operative slogan of combat cinema for the past century. A sister slogan, “War is Crime”, continues to draw far less cachet for obvious reasons. I can think of only a half dozen or so films that have explored the relationship as centerpiece. Andre de Toth’s Play Dirty may just [...]

White Dog (Fuller, 1982)

Samuel Fuller’s White Dog is Criterion’s recent endeavor to rescue an otherwise worthy film from relative anonymity. Few have had the opportunity to see Fuller’s tense drama until now. Outside of video boot owners, past audiences include those of a few feature runs overseas, a 1991 New York theater screening, and the handful [...]

Day of the Outlaw (De Toth)

Saddled with one of the more generic titles in the genre, Day of the Outlaw largely avoids genre boilerplate thanks to a few choice decisions by director Andre De Toth. Chief among them is his break with the conventional scenery of sagebrush and arroyos, opting instead for alpine Wyoming at the height of winter [...]

Privilege (Watkins)

In 1967, Peter Watkins was best known as a political provocateur who had been more or less banned from the BBC after stirring up a storm of controversy over his brutally honest semi-documentary, The War Game. The film was a savage, relentless demonstration of Britain’s frightfully low level of preparedness for a nuclear assault, and [...]

La Femme Publique

Here’s a film that has been highly regarded among buffs since its 1984 release, one with blatant abstractions that are readily defended as inventive. Having finally seen it, I couldn’t agree more, and perhaps the experience is sweetened from such a long wait. Now enjoying its debut among English-speakers, La Femme Publique is again available [...]

Brute Force

Most prison films operate within the prescribed set of boundaries described physically by penitentiary walls. Those parameters in turn lead to a fairly limited set of plot options with escape and wrongful imprisonment probably topping the list. Jules Dassin’s Brute Force is conventional in the sense of tracking lives of the men on both sides [...]

The Set-Up

The Set-Up is a small film and a great one precisely because of its sustained sense of scale. Director Robert Wise took a typical B-movie trope –an aging skid row boxer roped into a fixed fight– and a fashioned a gestalt experience that resonates well beyond dime-store pulp. Robert Ryan plays William “Stoker” Thompson a [...]

Le Petit Soldat (Godard)

“Maybe freedom began with remorse.” Le Petit Soldat’s protagonist, Bruno Forestier, internally stumbles over something far deeper than his improvised defense, as police question him about a hit-and-run. The film’s premise unfolds with the central character’s multiplying value dilemmas as he seeks refuge in Switzerland from the French military that he has deserted. [...]

Blast of Silence

The contest for bleakest film noir is one wrought with contention. Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly is often named as a favorite for the prize, but there are several lesser contenders also worthy of consideration. Shot on the streets of New York in 1959 and released roughly two years later, Allen Baron’s Blast of Silence [...]

The Street with No Name

The Street with No Name straddles the clash-prone genres of noir and FBI procedural better than most films of its ilk. Even so, the docu-drama segments play like unintentional near-parody. In the opening story-establishing scenes, the Hoover-run apparatus springs capably into action. Murder bullets are couriered to the Bureau’s DC crime lab and matched through [...]

Miracle Mile

This slice of surreal Eighties cinema seems custom made to invoke conflicting feelings in regard to relative quality. The clunky script is peppered with curious non sequiturs and leaps in logic. Dated doesn’t even begin to describe the look and mood. But the sizeable list of faults folds up curiously into a viewing experience that [...]

Will Penny

Long before he became the befuddled NRA rube caught in Michael Moore’s dubious documentarian/contrarian crosshairs, Charlton Heston had a respectable Hollywood career. He built it on chiseled-jaw turns in biblical epics The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur, later dystopian sci-fi operas like Planet of the Apes and Soylent Green, and a slew of other genre productions [...]

Astro Infinity Insanity

Few, if any, bands surpass the Dead in terms of tape archive magnitude. Despite best attempts by legions of fans, an exact inventory of every concert, session and rehearsal committed to tape is probably impossible. The same goes double for Sun Ra whose discography resembles a scintillating mosaic of asteroids in an orbital belt, constantly [...]

Old Joy

Thomas Wolfe’s prescient line “you can’t go home again” is clichéd beyond measure, but it still constitutes the quiet crux of Kelly Reichardt’s 2006 indie effort Old Joy. Running at a lean 76 minutes the flick is more an EP than an album, but still packs plenty of food for thought into its relative brevity. [...]

Early Works of Gavin Bryars/Maria de Alvear’s “Asking”, at Roulette

The third of four concerts in this season’s Interpretations series took place at Roulette on November 8th and featured the music of Maria de Alvear and Gavin Bryars, presenting material from recently issued CDs on Mode Records.
This was my first exposure to the music of de Alvear. Before the performance, the composer gave a [...]

Testament

In the intervening years since its 1983 release, much of the commentary on Testament has taken pains to contextualize the film within the era it was made: the apex of Reagan versus Russia atomic brinksmanship. Such a macro-minded strategy makes perfect sense, but it also presents in global terms what is essentially a local level [...]

Bad Movie, Great Music

This past weekend, I got the movie Primeval from Netflix. If you’re not familiar with it, you’re not missing that much. It’s a sort of horror movie starring Dominic Purcell (one of the two leads from the indescribably crappy TV series Prison Break) and Orlando Jones, an underrated comic actor who got his big break [...]