Ciao Michelangelo

Written by Joe D on July 31st, 2007

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Antonioni with the workhorse of Italian Cinema- the Arri IIc

Michelangelo Antonioni, maestro of Cinema is dead. His last film Beyond The Clouds (1994) was made when he was 82 and still suffering from the debilitating effects of a stroke. A high priest in the Church of Cinema. Passion for silver nitrate, Zeiss lenses, xenon, carbon arc,spark of intense light, a silver screen, a huge dark room.

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Buona Notte Maestro.

R.I.P. Ingmar Bergman

Written by Joe D on July 30th, 2007

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The great Ingmar Bergman has died. His dreams and existentialism made for some great Cinema. The austere spirit of shooting wide open. Liv Ullman’s eyes, her lips. Persona. Sawdust and Tinsel. I saw The Seventh Seal and The Virgin Spring on the Million Dollar Movie when I was a kid. They blew my mind.
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Peace be with you, Ingmar.

The Hustler, Robert Rossen, Eugen Schufftan, Dede Allen

Written by Joe D on July 30th, 2007

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I wanted to talk about The Hustler. A great film, just look at the talent involved, Robert Rossen, a genius socially conscious writer/director.

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Smilin’ Bob Rossen

“Dede, stop pishing with the mustard!”

He battled back from the Blacklist and made some excellent films. Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, George C. Scott, Piper Laurie, all tremendous in this film. Eugen Schufftan, the great cinematographer, inventor of the Schufftan process, an in camera special effects technique used on Metropolis and many other films.
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The Man Who Shot Detour

Eugen Schufftan
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Lang’s Metropolis

Dede Allen, this was the first film where her incredible talents as an editor were clearly on display, as a matter of fact I would nominate this film as the greatest editing job in Cinema! It is that good!

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DeDe Allen

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Where’s that trim!

The incredible plasticity of Schufftan’s images, the atmospheric pool games, the glowing, magical cue ball dancing on the velvet felt of the table, cracking at just the right moment, then freezing on a heart pounding emotional note from Newman. Jumping back to life and swinging us into this irresistible story of a young man’s talent and drive to be the best.
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Killing The Dragon

Then once you’re hooked, Rossen steps in with his monsters, George C. Scott, an evil wizard from a psychaitrist’s couch, putting a spell on Newman, controlling him, destroying his relationship with Piper Laurie.
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Scott and Gleason- The Sorcerer and his Golem

Jackie Gleason, a dragon breathing smoke in the dungeonlike pool halls. When Paul Newman as Fast Eddie comes back to do battle with him, he looks like a knight with his lance, St George, vanquishing the Serpent.

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Newman Pays The Piper

Also the montages are among the best ever put together, little camera moves from clocks dissolving to pool balls dissolving to the incredible faces of the rouges gallery watching the game, pure visual poetry. Everyone involved at the top of their game. I’ve heard Rossen asked Dede to watch Godard’s Breathless and the liberating editing techniques of that film inspired her to towering heights of creativity. Dede had just finished Odds Against Tomorrow for Robert Wise before starting this film and it is interesting to compare the two in terms of editing. Odds is a great film, cited by Jean Pierre Melville as a personal favorite, the editing is excellent but only in some unorthodox(for it’s time) sound cutting( prelapping incoming sound on scene transitions for ex.) does it hint at the revolutionary brilliance of The Hustler. If you’re interested in editing The Hustler is a must see film, it was shot in CinemaScope so hopefully a museum or revival house will screen it and you can see it as it was meant to be seen.

Spaghetti Westerns, Venice Film Festival, Quentin Tarantino

Written by Joe D on July 27th, 2007

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Okay, I just found the complete list of Spaghetti Westerns that are screening at the 2007 Venice Film Festival. I have been invited to attend by Quentin Tarantino, we’ve worked together several times and he knows how much I love this genre. I brought QT to the NuArt to see the restored version of The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly which I had worked on as a film editor and he was impressed. I think that’s part of the reason why he invited me. Anyway I will be blogging about all these films so stay tuned in!

Biennale Cinema 64th Venice Film Festival Spaghetti Western

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The films (in chronological order):

Antes llega la muerte (1964) by Joaquin Luis Romero Marchent
100.000 dollari per Ringo (1965) by Alberto De Martino
Il ritorno di Ringo (1965) by Duccio Tessari
Ringo del Nebraska (1965) by Mario Bava and Antonio Román
Un dollaro bucato (1965) by Giorgio Ferroni
Django (1965) - Uncut - by Sergio Corbucci
The Bounty Killer (1966) by Eugenio Martin
La resa dei conti (1966) by Sergio Sollima
Navajo Joe (1966) by Sergio Corbucci
Sugar Colt (1966) by Franco Giraldi
Un fiume di dollari (1966) by Carlo Lizzani
Yankee (1966) by Tinto Brass
10 000 dollari per un massacro (1967) by Romolo Guerrieri
El Desperado (1967) by Franco Rossetti
Il tempo degli avvoltoi (1967) by Nando Cicero
La morte non conta i dollari (1967) by Riccardo Freda
Se sei vivo spara (1967) - Uncut - by Giulio Questi
Ognuno per sé (1967) by Giorgio Capitani
Preparati la bara (1967) by Ferdinando Baldi
Tepepa (1968) by Giulio Petroni
Una lunga fila di croci (1968) by Sergio Garrone
E Dio disse a Caino (1969) by Antonio Margheriti
La taglia è tua l’uomo l’ammazzo io (1969) by Edoardo Mulargia
Lo chiamavano Trinità (1970) by Enzo Barboni
Matalo! (1970) by Cesare Canevari
Vamos a matar companeros (1970) by Sergio Corbucci
La vendetta è un piatto che si serve freddo (1971) by Pasquale Squitieri
Il grande duello (1972) by Giancarlo Santi
Il mio nome è Shangai Joe (1973) by Mario Caiano
Una ragione per vivere e una per morire (1973) by Tonino Valerii
I quattro dell’apocalisse (1975) by Lucio Fulci
Keoma (1976) by Enzo G. Castellari

Quentin told me that he’s trying to arrange DVD distribution for all these titles. I wish they could have a limited theatrical run as well! Wouldn’t that be great, seeing some of these babies in a theater with an audience, the way they were meant to be seen! By the way a few days ago I posted about meeting Leonard Mann, and now I find out that one of his westerns is going to screen at Venice! La vendetta è un piatto che si serve freddo(Revenge is a Dish Served Cold) (1971) by Pasquale Squitieri, how cool is that! I will be podcasting an interview with him after I get back.
p.s. The name of Leonard’s western is similar to a Klingon proverb at the begining of Kill Bill, vol.1

One Night With You To Screen At New Filmmakers L.A.

Written by Joe D on July 25th, 2007

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One Night With You has been selected to screen at the season opener of New Filmmakers- L.A.. The screening will be on August 16th at the Architecture and Design Museum of Los Angeles. Obviously we’re all very excited here and we hope everybody in L.A. will come and see our film! I guarantee a good time will be had by all!

Here are the details:

NewFilmmakers L.A. Opening Event
Architecture + Design Museum Los Angeles
5900 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(The A+D Museum is located across the street from LACMA)

6:30pm Documentary Program - South Central Farmers / Recyclergy
7:35pm  Shorts Program - The Intruder / Grace / Y pensez vous! / Christopher Brennan Saves the World
8:55pm  Feature Program - One Night With You

Admission is $5.00.  All proceeds go to supporting the A+D Museum and New Filmmakers LA.

Andre de Toth’s Pitfall

Written by Joe D on July 25th, 2007

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I’m writing about a little known but great movie, Andre de Toth’s Pitfall. A noir gem, hard to see but worth the effort! I got a laser disc copy, I don’t think it’s on DVD yet. It features great performences by Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott, Raymond Burr ( in his first meaty role), and Jane Wyatt ( who steals the show!). There’s something about these European directors that came here in the 40’s, like Billy Wilder. They could see through all the moralistic bullshit and make films that dealt with emotional realities, truths, not whitewashed happy ending sentimental dreck. Pitfall delivers, it’s a classic noir tale, we start with a happy American family, Dad, Mom, and Junior.
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The American Dream

Dad is an insurance investigator, one of his operatives is Raymond Burr, a creepy simian in an oversized suit.
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The Look OF Lust For Lizabeth

They investigate sexy model Lizabeth Scott, (who we first see in revealling short shorts). It seems Scott’s husband embezzeled funds from his employer so he could keep Scott in minks and speedboats and other luxurious items. Now investigator Dick must reclaim said booty. Unfortunately for him he is mesmerized by Scott’s booty and after a hair raising ride in her speedy motorboat he’s hooked like a Marlin off Mexico. The first phase of the Film Noir Formula, Femme Fatale in need attracts chump with a lot to lose.
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Dig those noir Venetian blinds

But don’t forget about dear old Raymond Burr, he’s got the hots for Lizabeth himself, he even warns Dick to keep away. But maybe this fans Dick’s flame even more! Liz tells Burr she wants nothing to do with him but that doesn’t stop him, he stalks her, follows her, waits for her on her doorstep. He’s like a large drooling chimpanzee ogling her everywhere she goes. He even shows up at her work (she’s a department store model) and insists to the madam, I mean matron that she model a dress for him, it’s a creepy degrading scene, you’re going to love it!
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The Shining Object Of Desire

Burr kicks the shit out of Dick, waylaying him as he’s parking his car in his garage! The low down lily livered skunk! But Dick gets revenge, once Jane has healed him up, he heads over to Burr’s apartment and as soon as Ray opens his door, Dick coldcocks him! Very satisfying!
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Director de Toth shows Dick Powell how to slug big bad Burr

Also Burr rats on Dick, working up Lizabeth’s husband who’s rotting in jail! Burr plays Iago to Liz’s husband’s Othello. When the guy gets out he’s ready to kill! He attacks Dick’s home late one night! I won’t reveal how it all turns out, you have to see this for yourself but I will say that Jane Wyatt, the mom from Father Knows Best delivers a rare true performence, like what a real woman would do if she finds out the man she loves had an affair. It’s beautiful just like her.
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How could anyone cheat on a wife like this?

Also this movie has some of the best noir dialouge of all time! There are some great lines in here. I’d rate it just under Out Of The Past for noir dialouge excellence. Andre de Toth, the one-eyed Hungarian has served up a delicious dark noir, flecked with Americana and accented with European worldliness. Uncork some Tokay, drink, watch, enjoy.

Sherman Torgan- R.I.P.

Written by Joe D on July 24th, 2007

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It rained the night before last in Los Angeles. That’s something that doesn’t happen very often. The sky was crying, the tears were falling from the eyes of the Gods of Film. One of their high priests had passed on. Sherman Torgan. Yesterday all of us that went to Mt. Sinai got to hear some great stories about Sherman, a couple of themes seemed to be evident in all of the remembrances. Sherman marched to the beat of a different drummer, he was his own man, he didn’t compromise and he did what he wanted to do. He was generous, open minded, he loved film, and he was a great guy, a mensch. My own interactions with him back all this up as well. A little while ago i approached Sherman at the New Beverly. I was scouting locations for my film One Night With You. I really wanted to have the theater in my film. Los Angeles is a character in ONWY and the New Beverly is a huge part of my LA. It’s a huge part of anyone’s LA that loves film. Anyway Sherman was great to me, he agreed to let me film there, he was generous, a pleasure to deal with. Another time I was talking to Sherman, he told me he believed the New Beverly was the last privately owned non-subsidized revival house in the country! What a comment on our times and what a comment on Sherman. He kept that theater open at great personal sacrafice, he did what he wanted to do, show great films at one of the last bastions of individuality in our increasingly bland corporately controlled culture. Sherman you were a mensch, you will be missed.
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Production still from One Night With You

Chinatown Locations, Dick Sylbert

Written by Joe D on July 23rd, 2007

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I’m posting scans of an article from the July 8th, 1999 LA Times that comemorated the 25th anniversary of Roman Polanski’s Chinatown. The article talks about the locations used in the film and why Dick Sylbert chose them. It’s interesting for several reasons, you get to see where the actual locations are or were in 1999. Go out and look them up, drive around LA on your own Chinatown tour. Also you get a glimpse into why Sylbert made certain creative decisions, that Jake Gittes had to constantly go up to a location, it was an uphill climb, a struggle, a pursuit. The psychology of a courtyard bungalow apartment complex. The thought behind the choice. Dick was an intellectual and a lot of thought and personal logic, creative interpretation went into his designs. I read an article on the designs he did for Francis ( the film about Frances Farmer starring Jessica Lange), Dick had created a visual equivalent to certain classical music forms that he felt played like the emotional arcs of the story. Incredible stuff. Polanski said about Chinatown, “Robert Towne had this thing about Los Angeles, about the history of the city, and that’s what makes it so profound. Without that, you would just have another detective thing.” And Dick Sylbert found the places to make it work. He made Los Angeles a character in Chinatown. Below is a .pdf of the entire article.
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Napoli Spara, Leonard Mann

Written by Joe D on July 22nd, 2007

Hey Guess What! It’s a small world! I went up to a birthday party this weekend, about 200 miles up the coast, central california, my wife was talking to a couple and naturally I butted in and one thing led to another, we were talking about tomatoes, then Italy, how he lived there for 15 years, how he went there in 1968 with just a backpack, how he starred in over 30 films!! His name is Leonard Manzella, but he acted under Leonard Mann. Some of his films are: Napoli Spara, one of my all time favorite polizotos, a couple spaghetti westerns,La Vendetta è un piatto che si serve freddo (Revenge Is A Dish Served Cold), Il Pistolero dell’Ave Maria (The Last Pistolero),a scifi L’Umanoide, (The Humanoid),and many others. Anyway we talked about Italian films and how they made them back in the 70’s. Something I’m very interested in, the atmosphere, the milleau of Roma 1968. A super creative time in world Cinema, a flowering of creativity, a new Renaisannce. I am going to interview Leonard soon and post it as a podcast so you all can hear it for yourselves. I also want to do a posting on the techniques of Italian film production (1960’s/70’s) style. So anybody that wants to can make a film Italian Style. So uncork a bottle of Nebbiolo, kick back and check out a film starring Leonard Mann, Napoli Spara is unavailable right now but I’m going to do everything I can to get it released here! In the meantime here’s a lobby card I found over at Stephen Grimes site- http://stephengrimes.blogspot.com/
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Chinatown, Roman Polanski, Doc Erickson, Dick Sylbert, James Hong

Written by Joe D on July 20th, 2007

Here’s the trailer for Roman Polanski’s masterpiece Chinatown. I worked with several individuals from this film on the film Mobsters. Doc Erickson, a producer who also played the banker in the barbershop that Jack Nicholson almost gets in a fight with and Dick Sylbert, the genius production designer. James Hong, the great actor who plays Kahn, Faye Dunaway’s faithful manservant appears in my film One Night With You. I’m hoping to do a podcast interview with James sometime soon and I’ll post more on that soon. I also am working on a post featuring an interview with Dick Sylbert about the locations used in Chinatown. Keep your eyes peeled for that one. Finally I’d like to offer a bit of information about the last line in the movie, the scene takes place on North Spring Street just south of Ord Street, in front of the old Yimmy Lu’s. One of Jake’s operatives is leading a dazed Jack Nicholson away when he turns to him and says “Forget it Jake. It’s Chinatown.” This line was spoken to Jacob Riis, a photographer and reformer working to help poor immigrants at the turn of the century in New York City. He tried to infiltrate Chinatown and bring about some changes but he had no luck penetrating the closed off culture of the Chinese immigrants. A detective uttered those exact same words to Mr. Riis in an attempt at consolation.

Tristana trailer, Luis Bunuel, Catherine Deneuve, Fernando Rey, Deus Ex Machina

Written by Joe D on July 19th, 2007

Here is the trailer for Tristana, an incredible film by the Surrealist maestro and maker of the world’s driest Martini, Luis Bunuel. Fernando Rey is excellent and Catherine Deneuve gives an incredible performance. When I see an actress give her all like this I cannot help but be moved. Deneuve, one of the most beautiful actresses of all time, but not worried if she looks good or are they portraying her in an unflattering way. She sublimates her ego for the sake of the film, you can’t ask more of an actor (especially a beautiful movie star). I’m reminded of Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet. Her courageous performance made that film great.
Check out Tristana, it has one of the most original endings in Cinema! Bunuel understood this rule of Dramaturgy that descends from the Deus Ex Machina, at the end of the play or movie, you can have anything happen. God can come down and strike someone dead, you don’t have to explain it, it’s over, THE END.

La Maschera del Demonio, Mario Bava, Eraserhead, David Lynch

Written by Joe D on July 17th, 2007

Here is the trailer for Black Sunday and a short trailer for Eraserhead. I think they rate a comparison. The images are kind of similar. An obsession with texture, skin, mortified flesh, mud, decay, decomposition, punctured heads, a sexual revulsion, irresistable, much to the horror of the aroused. Bava’s tells a story, a vampire story that ends with the death of the monster. A monster brought to life by a drop of blood dripped into the eye socket of the corpse of the once beautiful, sexually voracious vampire. Eraserhead tells a story of a monster, brought to life by sperm ejaculated into a vagina. I have a theory, once upon a time David Lynch lived in Philadelphia, the mid 60’s. He experimented with mind altering drugs, LSD for example. He went to a run down movie theater and watched Mario Bava’s La Maschera del Demonio, released in America as Black Sunday. It had a profound effect on him, like Bava he became a master of the Art/Horror film.