Sunday, March 22, 2015

Nous ne viellirons pas ensemble

1972, France, directed by Maurice Pialat

By all accounts, including his own, Pialat was a tough man to live with, but as a filmmaker I'm increasingly convinced that he's one of the most important figures of the past 40-50 years. Unlike in his previous films, Pialat was working with major film stars here but the transition is seamless, and he extracts a performance of exceptional complexity and humanity from Jean Yanne, 
despite the character's overtly boorish aspects. Indeed, it's rare to see an actor embrace an unsympathetic part quite so fully: one scene of physical abuse is the more distressing for the sense that real people were hurt in the making. The filming process surely influenced Yanne's subsequent turn, at least in the films he made as a director, to a lighter register, quite a departure after a decade with Chabrol, Godard and Pialat. The rhythm of the film is beguiling despite the subject matter of an extended breakup: there's a sense of a pendulum swinging in ever smaller arcs as the inevitable outcome approaches, and yet there's no hint of the melodrama that often accompanies such a scenario. Indeed, the prevailing tone is one of deep melancholy, even tragedy for characters who struggle to communicate at the most fundamental level despite their constant verbal interactions. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Une si jolie petite plage

1949, France, directed by Yves Allégret

I've little to add to David Cairns' excellent overview, which was prompted me to seek the picture out in the first place. It's another fine entry in the cycle of desperately downbeat films produced in post-war France, films that are impossible to read as anything other than part of the struggle to come to terms with the country's recent past. The conclusion here is especially bitter, though perhaps it's only from the depths of the abyss that renewal can come.

Mille soleils

2013, Senegal, directed by Mati Diop

A beautifully moving companion piece to Touki-Bouki, though it functions well in its own right even for those who haven't seen the Mambéty film as a kind of confrontation between a man's present and his past (though the context is very different, it occasionally made me think of Joshua Oppenheimer's The Act of Killing). The opening shot is especially good, bringing together a whole range of themes -- modernity/traditional culture, movie stardom/reality, a love and celebration of the cinema -- in one place, while the film as a whole provides a useful insight into current inter-generational tensions in Senegal. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Among the Living

1941, US, directed by Stuart Heisler

An entertaining genre mashup, blending horror plotting with noir-ish camerawork in a manner quite characteristic of the period -- Siodmak's Son of Dracula, for instance, has equally striking camerawork in certain passages. This film has some exceptionally vibrant scenes, and the tracking shots through town are especially good -- unusually mobile and quite effective as a means of dramatizing the mental state of the character they accompany. The extended bar/dancing scene put me in mind of another Siodmak film, Phantom Lady: Elisha Cook Jr's frenzied drumming seemed of a piece with the nightmarish vision of entertainment on offer here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Killing of Angel Street

1981, Australia, directed by Donald Crombie

Despite its flaws, Phillip Noyce's Heatwave is a much more interesting take on events surrounding and succeeding the disappearance of Juanita Nielsen in 1975: this a prosaic film, saddled with a dreadfully obvious soundtrack and a weak romantic subplot. However, Liz Alexander, in a very rare lead role, is generally strong as the primary character, growing in conviction as the film develops and proving very convincing at the finale.

Saturday, March 14, 2015


2013, US, directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee

The last remaining 4-year-old in America has now seen Frozen, and a lot of 2013/2014 Halloween costumes suddenly make much more sense.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Born to Kill

1947, US, directed by Robert Wise

As brisk and brutal as The Sound of Music is lengthy and overblown (which is not to say I don't like the latter film). Lawrence Tierney gets more screen time than usual even if his role is very similar to his standard tough guy fare and he's given a run for his cold-hearted money by Claire Trevor. They both watch Walter Slezak walk away with the film, though: he's quite brilliant as the self-interested detective quick to sense the chance to maximize his own opportunities. By contrast, as much as I enjoy his weaselly presence in other films, I couldn't quite figure out Elisha Cook, Jr's purpose here: his character seemed more narrative device than actual person and at times he comes across rather awkwardly as one of Tierney's inner voices, surely not the intended effect.

Thursday, March 12, 2015


2010, US, directed by Nathan Greno & Byron Howard


List of all movies

Most of the images here are either studio publicity stills or screen captures I've made myself; if I've taken your image without giving you credit, please let me know.

About Me

Boston, Massachusetts, United States