Happy Birthday Mario Bava

Written by Joe D on August 2nd, 2017

July 30 is Bava’s birthday so to celebrate here’s a link to a film
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Antonioni shorts

Written by Joe D on April 15th, 2017

antonioni.jpgHow did the great Michelangelo Antonioni get started one might ask? He was a painter and had written film criticism. After the war he got a chance to make some short documentaries. Already you can see his talent for capturing atmospheric images, the importance of the settings he places his characters in, see the artist finding his palette, his voice, his vision. Here for your viewing pleasure are two of his documentaries. Gente del Po, a film about the inhabitants of an area in Italy, centering on the Po river and N.U. about the street sweepers of Roma. Enjoy!

Mario Bava’s Planet of The Vampires or Terrore Nello Spazio

Written by Joe D on February 19th, 2017

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Here is a Hi Def copy of Bava’s amazing movie. He was able to accomplish so much with so little, the style and atmosphere are outstanding. Harken back to an innocent time when filmmaking was fun and there was an audience for cool movies like this. Bring back the Drive-In Theater!

Jean-Pierre Melville, Paul Meurisse, Lino Ventura - Interview - Le Deuxieme Souffle

Written by Joe D on February 3rd, 2017

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Here’s a great interview with Mellville, Ventura and Meurisse as they made Le Deuxieme Souffle. I think Melville was difficult to work with, suing everyone including his own actors! You can pick up on the subtext in the actors interviews. From what I hear Ventura and Melville would not even speak to each other on Army Of Shadows. But he was a great filmmaker.

Blow Up 50 years later

Written by Joe D on January 9th, 2017

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I first saw Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Blow Up many years ago. I liked it for it’s imagery, the sexy photography, the swinging London scene it took place in, seeing Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck playing with the Yardbirds, probably the same reasons that made it Antonioni’s biggest box office hit. I just rewatched it and I have a different take on it now. It seems like a quantum detective story. Quantum physics tells us that what we see and perceive as solid matter is really just a bunch of organized energy fields, things are mainly composed of space, in that light watch our protagonist of Blow Up. David Hemmings portrays a successful photographer. When we meet him he’s a Materialist, always trying to buy things, like the antique shop or his neighbors latest painting. He tells his editor he wishes he had piles of money. “Why?” “To be Free.” “Like him” says the editor pointing to a photo of a bum that Hemmings just snapped. The editor also advises Hemmings that he should look at photography like a detective in a story, “always looking for Clues.” This proves to be a prophetic statement and starts our photographer on his trip down the Rabbit Hole. Hemmings shoots some stills in a nearby park, in a beautifully photographed sequence, he follows a couple that are frolicking and kissing , the British overcast skies make for incredibly rich color and texture. Antonioni must have been ecstatic , he was a fanatic for color, paining buildings or environments to suit he is needs.
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The photographs he takes become the clue his editor spoke of and by blowing up and carefully examining them he discovers a murder was committed.
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He blows up the image of the dead man that it becomes an abstract collection of dots and blotches, very similar to his neighbors abstract painting so comments his neighbors girlfriend on seeing it.
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His marginal morality does not compel him to call the police, instead he thinks these images will be a great ending to his new book. He goes to the park and finds the body but is spooked by a sound and heads back home, when he gets there all the images and negatives are gone, except the extreme blow up that looks like a Jackson Pollack painting. He goes out to meet his agent, sees the girl from the park and tries to follow her, like a detective in a movie. This brings him to the Ricky Tick club where the Yardbirds perform.
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He manages to catch Jeff Becks guitar neck when Beck having stomped his guitar to bits tosses it into the crowd, causing a mad scramble as they all try to grab it. Hemmings wins out and runs out of the club only to discard the neck like so much trash. After finding his agent at a party, getting loaded and passing out, he awakens the next day returns to the park but he’s too late, the body is gone. He sees a group of Mimes playing tennis without a ball or racquets, al the Mimes watching follow the imaginary ball with their eyes as its batted back and forth.
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Hemming watches amused but when the ball is hit over the fence near him and the Mime playing looks to him beseechingly to retrieve it, Hemmings does so, picking up the invisible ball and throwing it back. Then he too tracks the back and forth movement with his eyes and we hear on the soundtrack the sound of a tennis ball being hit and returned. Has he learned a lesson in the Non-Materiality of the Universe or succumbed from the peer pressure of all the watching Mimes to see the ball that isn’t there. I believe the former because after a few moments he shakes his head, retrieves his camera and then vanishes himself as the words THE END appear.
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It’s an amazing comment on perceived reality, also perhaps a comment on Art, Critiscim, peoples response to anything new. They can’t see it until someone explains it to them. Supposedly when Columbus’ ships anchored off the coast of the new world, the natives could not see them as they were so foreign to their experience, days later a sham explained to the tribe that they were there and what they were and then they were visible.
Come to think of it I heard somewhere that Antonioni was a tennis pro before he became a filmmaker. Just think of all that time he had his eye on the ball, how important that fuzzy sphere was to him, how much effort and concentration he put into that. For him to make the climax of his film, the moment where the protagonist changes his point of view a tennis game speaks volumes.

Truffaut documentary

Written by Joe D on October 23rd, 2016

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Here is a very thorough documentary on Francois Truffaut, it tells all, how he got his start in film, etc. Produced by Eyes On Film it’s worth checking out.

More Early Polanski

Written by Joe D on April 3rd, 2016

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Here are some of Polanski’s student films that some generous soul has posted. I had never seen some of them until recently. A definite plus side to the Internet, access to all this rare unseeable film.

Le Gros et le maigre (The Fat and the Lean) - Roman Polanski - 1961

Written by Joe D on March 24th, 2016

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This is a great short by the ultra-talented Roman Polanski. It really demonstrates what an amazing physical actor he is, Chaplinesque. Featuring music by the super genius Krzysztof Komeda.

The Making Of The Misfits

Written by Joe D on February 22nd, 2016

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Here’s a wonderful documentary about the making of The Misfits, a classic B&W film. What an amazing collection of talent! Arthur Miller, John Huston, the cast, Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Monty Clift, Eli Wallach, Thelma Ritter, the brilliant crew including the genius cameraman Russell Metty and the spectaculer editor George Tomasini.

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Russell Metty with Orson Welles

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The Great George Tomasini
What a group. Out in the middle of nowhere making an existential Western. Wow, I wish I could have been there. I first saw this film back on the WOR Million Dollar Movie, it fascinated me as a young movie nut. I loved Marilyn and I had never seen Gable in a movie like this. The incredible cinematography blew me away, especially the mustang catching sequence. Metty had shot such masterpieces as Orson Welles Touch Of Evil, Douglas Sirk’s Magnificent Obsession, Kubrick’s Spartacus, to name a few. George Tomasini was best known for his work with Hitchcock, including, Vertigo, Psycho, Rear Window and North by Northwest. One of the greatest editors of all time. Anyway here is Part one of the doc. Check it out.

The Man Who Fell To Earth Soundtrack

Written by Joe D on February 2nd, 2016

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Here’s a great little documentary about the soundtrack to Nic Roeg’s The Man Who Fell To Earth starring David Bowie in his greatest role. I always really liked this soundtrack, John Phillips came through big time.

Video Essay: The Man Who Fell to Earth from Film Comment on Vimeo.

D.O.A.

Written by Joe D on January 4th, 2016

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This is a classic movie, iconic L.A. locations, a twisted noir plot, amazing San Francisco street footage, a crazy bebop Jazz sequence and Neville Brand. Where to begin? Well I had a friend in town visiting frome Rome, Italy that is, Trevi Fountain, Cinecitta. Anyway I wanted to show him around downtown L.A. and one of our stops was the amazing Bradbury building. Most people recognize it as the location in Blade Runner, where Harrison Ford fights Rutger Hauer but I think equally as important a use for this location was in D.O.A.
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I recommended to my Italian friend that he watch D.O.A. and see how the building we just visited was used in that film. I wound up watching it again and I realized that Russel Rouse was one of the writers and Harry Popkin was the producer.

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These guys were responsible for some of the hippest 50’s noir to hit the silver screen of your local drive in. I did not know they were part of the D.O.A. team. Popkin and Rouse worked on The Well, a searing indictment of racism, ahead of it’s time and The Thief. Rouse made Wicked Woman, a film I recently wrote about. So that got me re-interested in D.O.A. , Let me just vsay it right out front I am not a big fan of Edmund O’Brien, but his scene chewing style works pretty well at times in this film and he runs like no one in Cinema! His frenzied run for your life performance on the streets of San Francisco, crashing into innocent bystanders is a highlight of the film.
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Other wonderful elements include an incredible sequence aboard a city bus, where the gangsters that want to kill O’Brien are following the bus he’s on and you can see them out the window of the bus at night as they stalk him. A beautiful nightmarish sequence. Actually the nighttime photography of downtown L.A. is particularly great, Neville Brand taking O’Brien for a ride especially.
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downtown.jpgThere is a great wild man jazz sequence that has frenetic performances of Black Jazz musicians that is outstanding. I love musical sequences and this one is a doozy.
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I think it would be educational to compare this sequence to some that Robert Siodmak did, like the crazy jazz jam session in Phantom Lady or the dance scene in Criss Cross. The D.O.A. scene is really great performances, great shots and great editing, Siodmak’s reveal a planned out sequence that works beautifully, it was created in the director’s mind while the D.O.A. scene was put together in the editing room.
Rudolph Mate’ the director of D.O.A. started as a camerman in Europe, shooting such masterpieces as Dreyer’s The Passion Of Joan Of Arc, this is the movie that Anna Karina watches in Godard’s Vivre Sa Vie. Mate’ also directed a film that was a location on another stop of my downtown tour, Union Station, a noir that takes place at perhaps the most iconic downtown L.A. location.

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Rudy at the camera films Dietrich
Mate’ was director of photography on many, many classic Hollywood films, Pride Of The Yankees, Dante’s Inferno, Foriegn Correspondent, Stella Dallas, Sahara, Gilda and The Lady From Shanghai, to name just a few. He delivers a fast paced ( 83 minute) gem that never let’s up and has many especially well directed scenes, take for example the final confrontation, at The Bradbury Building. It is shot just like a classic shootout from a Western, incredible.

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Draw, Motherfucker!
Whenever a director can put another subtext or layer of meaning onto a scene and it is harmonius with the action not obtrusive, it’s a wonderful thing. Watch it for yourself, a film class in 2 minutes. Then there’s Neville Brand, so over the top as Chester the thug or maybe goon is better, Sadistic, simple minded, evil but with a lot of personality.

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Chester doesn’t like Bigelow. He’s soft in the belly!

I like Neville Brand, check him out in the underrated Eaten Alive by Tobe Hooper. And as Quentin Tarantino once told me, the second most decorated soldier of WWII after Audie Murphy. So check out D.O.A. then go down and visit the Bradbury building, you can park across the street at the Grand Central Market and have lunch.

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P.S. Here it is on YouTube.

The Metropolis Case

Written by Joe D on August 27th, 2015

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Here is a very informative documentary about early German Cinema in general and Metropolis in particular. Fritz Lang said he never paid any attention to the critics, maybe he had something there, Metropolis was panned when it came out. I read somewhere that Lang was still editing the last reels of Metropolis while the first reels were being projected at the Premier, a motorcycle messenger would race with the reels to the theater as Lang finished them! This outdoes Michael Mann for editorial craziness and gives credence to the old saying “Films aren’t finished they’re abandoned”. Anyway if you are interested in the great Expressionist heritage of German Cinema check it out.