Saturday, September 1, 2007

FIM

THE END *** DAS ENDE *** FIN *** EIND *** FINE *** КОНЕЦ *** KONIEC *** КІНЕЦЬ *** النهاية. *** Son. *** 末端 *** エンド

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Cléo de 5 à 7 (1961)

Cleo From 5 to 7 (Cleo de cinq a sept), per its title, concentrates on two hours in the life of a woman. Those hours are desperate ones, in that Cleo, a pop singer, awaits the results of her tests for cancer. Director Agnes Varda stages the film in "real" rather than subjective time, its various episodes divided into chapters, using significant Tarot cards. During the allotted time, Cleo visits her friends, tries to sing her worries away, spends money, and cries. - by Hal Erickson - allmovie

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Big Jake (1971)

When his grandson (played by real-life son Ethan Wayne) is kidnapped by scurrilous baddie Richard Boone, Big Jake (John Wayne) sets out to deliver the $1 million ransom. On the off-chance that there'll be gunplay, Jake brings along his sons Patrick Wayne and Chris Mitchum. Maureen O'Hara plays Jake's estranged wife and Bruce Cabot provides comedy relief as a scraggly Indian Scout. - by Hal Erickson - allmovie

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Le Notti bianche (1957)

Shy young Marcelo Mastroianni ambles across a bridge one evening, where he meets a strange but alluring girl (Maria Schell) who is awaiting her lover. This chance acquaintance is the first strand in a complex web entrapping Mastroianni in a dreamlike world of flashbacks, flashforwards and false visions. The girl, suspecting that her lover is staying at a nearby hotel, asks Mastroianni to deliver a note to the errant swain. He agrees--then destroys the note, setting the plot in motion. Updated from a 19th century story by Dostoyevsky, White Nights (Le Notti Bianche) was later refilmed by Robert Bresson as Four Nights of a Dreamer. - by Hal Erickson - allmovie

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Ansikte mot ansikte (1976)

Liv Ullmann plays Dr. Jenny Isakson, a psychiatrist who is taking a vacation while her husband Dr. Erik Isakson (Sven Lindberg) is elsewhere. Haunted by visions of an old woman, Jenny suffers from profound, inexplicable depression. Desperately in search of a escape from her doldrums, she has an affair with married doctor Tomas Jacobi (Erland Josephson). This only serves to spark an attack of hysteria for Jenny. Again visited by hallucinations of the old woman, she attempts suicide. While hovering between life and death, she imagines she sees all the people who've been influential in her life, and rails against them for causing her neuroses. Only while recovering does she learn who the spectral old woman is and why she is undergoing so harrowing an emotional experience. Like his later Scenes From a Marriage, Bergman's Face to Face (Ansikte mot ansikte) originated as a multipart TV series, which was then pared down into a two-hour-plus feature film. - by Hal Erickson - allmovie

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Kozijat rog (1972)

The epic wartime story Kozijat Rog was the most-watched film ever shown in Bulgaria. Three million out of its eight million population saw it in 1972, when it was released. It tells the story of peasant resistance to the oppressive rule of the Ottoman Turks in the 17th century. The story concerns a goatherder and his family. Early on, the goatherder takes his flocks into the hills. On his returns, he discovers that his wife has been raped and killed by Turks while his young daughter watched. He burns their house and takes his daughter to a shack in the hills. As she grows up, he trains her like a man and imparts her with the secrets of fighting with a staff. Once trained, they begin a systematic quest for vengeance. - by Clarke Fountain - allmovie

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The Birth of a Nation (1915)


The most successful and artistically advanced film of its time, The Birth of a Nation has also sparked protests, riots, and divisiveness since its first release. The film tells the story of the Civil War and its aftermath, as seen through the eyes of two families. The Stonemans hail from the North, the Camerons from the South. When war breaks out, the Stonemans cast their lot with the Union, while the Camerons are loyal to Dixie. After the war, Ben Cameron (Henry B. Walthall), distressed that his beloved south is now under the rule of blacks and carpetbaggers, organizes several like-minded Southerners into a secret vigilante group called the Ku Klux Klan. When Cameron's beloved younger sister Flora (Mae Marsh) leaps to her death rather than surrender to the lustful advances of renegade slave Gus (Walter Long), the Klan wages war on the new Northern-inspired government and ultimately restores "order" to the South. In the original prints, Griffith suggested that the black population be shipped to Liberia, citing Abraham Lincoln as the inspiration for this ethnic cleansing. Showings of Birth of a Nation were picketed and boycotted from the start, and as recently as 1995, Turner Classic Movies cancelled a showing of a restored print in the wake of the racial tensions around the O.J. Simpson trial verdict. - by Hal Erickson - allmovie

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Flight Of The Phoenix (1965)

Based on Elleston Trevor's novel, The Flight of the Phoenix opens with a well-staged plane crash in the middle of the Sahara desert. The pilot (James Stewart) and the navigator (Richard Attenborough) do their best to maintain order among the survivors, a group of oil men not well-suited for survival in the desert wastes. Some of those who appear to be the most resourceful reveal themselves to be inept or cowardly, while other less prepossessing types -- notably bespectacled Standish (Dan Duryea) -- demonstrate surprising inner reserves of strength. The ultimate fate of the survivors rests in the hands of Heinrich Dorfmann (Hardy Kruger), who uses the wreckage of the old plane to design a new one. The Flight of the Phoenix was dedicated to the memory of veteran stunt pilot Paul Mantz, who was killed while filming the take-off scene of the new plane. - by Hal Erickson - allmovie

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Grand voyage, Le (2004)


A father/son road trip highlights the deep generational and cultural gaps between a modern young Arab preparing for his college entrance exams in France and his devoutly religious father who has demanded that his son drive him to Mecca in an intensely emotional drama from director Ismaël Ferroukhi. Réda (Nicolas Cazale) is determined to better himself by pursuing a higher education. When Réda's headstrong father arrives demanding that his son drive him to Mecca for a religious pilgrimage, the troubled young man's resentment towards grows more powerful than ever as a result of the elder's demand for respect for both himself and his journey. Now, as the reluctant pair wind their way from France to Saudi Arabia, the bond shared between them will be tested and their lives forever changed. - by Jason Buchanan - allmovie

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Boot, Das (1981)


Das Boot is one of the most gripping and authentic war movies ever made. Based on an autobiographical novel by German World War II photographer Lothar-Guenther Buchheim, the film follows the lives of a fearless U-Boat captain (Jurgen Prochnow) and his inexperienced crew as they patrol the Atlantic and Mediterranean in search of Allied vessels, taking turns as hunter and prey. There's very little plot, so the movie's power comes from both its riveting, epic battle scenes and its details of the boring hours spent waiting for orders or signs of the enemy. With the exception of one staunch Hitler Youth lieutenant, none of the crew is particularly loyal to the Nazis, and some are openly hostile toward their Fuhrer; this allows viewer sympathy with the men as they perform their laborious, monotonous duties in cramped, filthy quarters, or await death as depth charges explode all around the sub. (more)

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Ghosts... of the Civil Dead (1988)


Ghosts...of the Civil Dead is an Australian prison picture, ironically coproduced by a company calling itself "Correctional Services". The prison in question is a cruelly repressive institution, with a set of rules bordering on the Draconian. The inmates finally rebel in violent fashion against the regimented sadism of their captors. With its limited setting and its small cast, Ghosts...of the Civil Dead should have been easier to follow. The unnecessarily cluttered screenplay was written by the film's director, John Hillcoat. - by Hal Erickson - allmovie

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The Boondock Saints (1999)

Feeling that they are doing God's will, two Catholic men from Boston set out to kill everyone in this Reservoir Dogs-style vigilante thriller. Brothers Conner and Murphy MacManus (Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus) take to performing their divine duty against the Russian mob. They massacre a bunch of unsuspecting Mafioso in a scene of absurd violence, then they let more blood in a mass killing of porn-shop customers. Instead of getting thrown in jail, they are dubbed "saints" by the Boston Herald, and they are praised by brilliant, tortured, and gay FBI agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe). - by Jonathan Crow - allmovie

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Blood Work (2002)

A retired detective must battle former colleagues and his own failing health in order to bring a murderer to justice in this action drama produced and directed by its star, Clint Eastwood. Terry McCaleb (Eastwood) was one of the best and most thorough detectives at the FBI's Southern California office, until a massive heart attack sidelined him from police work for good. Following a heart transplant which saved his life, McCaleb has resigned himself to living quietly on a houseboat for the rest of his days, observing a strict health regimen prescribed by his cardiologist, Dr. Bonnie Fox (Anjelica Huston). (more)

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The Portrait of a Lady (1996)


Jane Campion directed this expressive adaptation of the classic novel by Henry James. Isabel Archer (Nicole Kidman) is a young American woman who, after the death of her parents, has been sent to England to visit relatives. While her family's tragedy has left her penniless, Isabel's beauty has earned her the attentions of a number of eligible men. When Isabel turns down a proposal of marriage from the wealthy Lord Warburton (Richard E. Grant) because she does not love him, her cousin Ralph (Martin Donovan), who is also smitten with her, arranges for his father to leave her a fortune before succumbing to tuberculosis so that she may live as an independent woman. Isabel takes a tour of Europe, where she meets Madame Merle (Barbara Hershey), a jaded sophisticate and matchmaker who introduces her to Gilbert Osmond (John Malkovich), a widowed American artist living abroad. Isabel falls in love with Gilbert and they marry, but his sloth and opportunism soon begin to wear on her, and three years later she is desperate to get out of their relationship. The Portrait of a Lady also stars John Gielgud, Mary-Louise Parker, Christian Bale, and Shelley Winters. - by Mark Deming - allmovie

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White Hunter Black Heart (1990)


Something of a sleeper in its 1990 release, White Hunter, Black Heart is one of Clint Eastwood's most engaging films. It is based on Peter Vietel's novel about the location shoot of John Huston's immortal The African Queen. But the focus is never on Bogie and Hepburn. Egomaniacal director John Wilson (Eastwood) is far more interested in killing an elephant than in making a movie. His old friend and scriptwriter Pete Verrill (Jeff Fahey) and his producer, Paul Landers (George Dzundza), are on hand to try and talk him down from this pursuit. Eastwood's verbose, outlandish performance will be particularly remarkable to fans who tend to think of him as the soft-spoken tough guy. - by John Voorhees - allmovie

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Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)

A petite New Jersey housewife finds self-fulfillment through amnesia in this new wave comedy of errors set in New York's hip '80s downtown scene. Rosanna Arquette stars as Roberta, who turns to the personals for vicarious thrills after her four-year marriage to staid hot tub salesman Gary (Mark Blum) grows stale. Her favorite classified ads trace the romance of Jim (Robert Joy), a struggling musician, and Susan (Madonna), a SoHo vamp who's just narrowly escaped being murdered alongside one of her other boyfriends -- a gangster who recently stole some Egyptian jewelry. Through a series of complicated missteps, Roberta ends up losing her memory and convincing both herself and a broodingly handsome young man named Dez (Aiden Quinn) that she's the elusive, adventurous Susan. (more)

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Irréversible (2002)

Gaspar Noé's Irreversible utilizes the same storytelling technique used by Christopher Nolan in Memento and Harold Pinter in Betrayal. Consisting of about a dozen scenes, all shot in single takes, Irreversible charts a disturbing night in the life of Marcus (Vincent Cassel), but presents the events in reverse chronological order. The audience eventually learns how the beautiful Alex (Cassel's real-life partner Monica Bellucci) is involved. The film opens with a violent altercation at a gay sex club and works backward to explain how and why the violence occurred. The actors improvised the vast majority of the dialogue starting from a four-page story outline. Irreversible was screened in competition at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival. - by Perry Seibert - allmovie

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Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)

Old-line liberals Matt and Christina Drayton (Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn) have raised their daughter Joey (Katharine Houghton) to think for herself and not blindly conform to the conventional. Still, they aren't prepared for the shock when she returns home from a vacation with a new fiancé: African-American doctor John Prentice (Sidney Poitier). While they come to grips with whatever prejudices they might still harbor, the younger folks must also contend with John's parents (Roy Glenn Sr. and Beah Richards), who are dead-set against the union. To complicate matters, the older couple's disapproving maid (Isabel Sanford) and Christina's bigoted business associate (Virginia Christine) put in their two cents' worth. While Joey is determined to go ahead with the wedding no matter what people think, John refuses to consider marriage until he receives the unqualified approval of all concerned. The closing monologue delivered by Spencer Tracy turned out to be the last scene ever played by the veteran film luminary, who died not long after the production. The film was a success in the racially volatile year of 1967 and was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won for Hepburn and screenwriter William Rose. - by Hal Erickson - allmovie

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The Shout (1978)

An asylum director begins telling a visitor to a cricket game the story of one of his "better" patients, Crossley (Alan Bates) who is able to compete. Some time previously, Crossley accosted Anthony (John Hurt), a composer, just after church and was for some reason invited to dinner. Once at the composer's home, he tells the story of his unusual upbringing among Australian Aborigines, and of the awful and strange gifts this has left him with. Among them is the ability to bring about another's death by using a certain kind of shout. The next morning, he begins to weave an erotic spell on the composer's wife Rachel (Susannah York), and then proves his killing ability on a sheep in a field. His influence increasingly disrupts their peaceful lives, until in a confrontation, the composer finds a way to best Crossley - but which results in his being placed in a mental institution. - by Clarke Fountain - allmovie

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Umberto D. (1952)

Frequently mentioned on lists of masterpieces of modern cinema, Vittorio De Sica's Umberto D. transforms a simple character study into a painfully poignant drama. Umberto is an aging former civil servant, now retired on his scant government pension. He spends his time in his tiny room in Rome, with only his longtime pet dog for companionship. His lonely life only grows worse when his limited income forces him to fall behind on his rent, leading his landlady to threaten him with eviction. He makes a desperate attempt to raise the needed money and protest the unfair treatment of senior citizens to the government, but he receives little response. His one chance at human contact, through brief conversations with a pregnant servant, proves sadly disappointing. Indeed, Umberto slowly becomes convinced that the situation may be hopeless, and he ultimately considers committing suicide. Considered one of the high points of Italian neo-realist cinema, Umberto D. provides the ultimate example of the movement's unadorned, observational style, which emphasizes the reality of events without calling attention to their emotional or dramatic impact. The unschooled, natural performances also contribute to the film's feeling of verisimilitude, particularly the lead performance by non-actor Carlo Battisti. - by Judd Blaise - allmovie

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Vivre sa vie (1962)


Vivre Sa Vie presents 12 episodes in the life of a young woman who turns to prostitution to pay her rent. Each episode features a theatrical scene preceded by a title that lists the characters in the episode, its location, and a brief summary of the action. As he would throughout his career, director Jean-Luc Godard uses prostitution as a metaphor for both economic life in general and the position of the filmmaker under capitalism. Vivre Sa Vie stars Anna Karina, who was married to Godard at the time. Her performance was largely improvised as Godard refused to give Karina her lines until just before each scene was shot. In order to maintain the freshness of the performances, Godard rarely made more than one take of each shot. The film is shot in stunning black-and-white by Raoul Coutard. The improvised acting and fragmented story give the viewer the impression of watching a documentary about a woman's life that is also a series of essays about aesthetics and economics. In addition, the film's camera style presents a catalogue of alternatives to conventional shooting strategies. - by Louis Schwartz - allmovie

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Ed Wood (1994)

Hollywood visionary Tim Burton pays homage to another Hollywood visionary, albeit a less successful one, in this unusual fictionalized biography. The film follows Wood (Johnny Depp) in his quest for film greatness as he writes and directs turkey after turkey, cross-dresses, and surrounds himself with a motley crew of Hollywood misfits, outcasts, has-beens, and never-weres. The real story, however, is his friendship with aging, morphine-addicted Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau), whom he tries to help stage a comeback. Landau's unforgettable Oscar-winning performance must be seen to be believed, as must Rick Baker's Oscar-winning makeup. While it would have been easy to make a film simply ridiculing the bumbling director, Burton instead focuses on his driving passion for filmmaking and his unwavering persistence in the face of ridicule and failure. Possibly the most surprising aspect of the film is the genuine sentiment with which Burton treats the relationship between Wood and Lugosi; his devotion to Lugosi is touching, as is Lugosi's final soliloquy -- an inane bit of dialogue from the hilariously bad Bride of the Monster that grows into a poignant metaphor for the actor's life and ultimate triumph of his spirit. Even the look of the film is right; it manages to preserve the air of one of Wood's own films while retaining a sense of artistry in much of the composition on screen (note the scene at the drug rehab where Lugosi endures a horrifying night of detox). In all, Ed Wood is a unique film -- at times side-splittingly funny; at others, tragic or even frightening -- and a heartfelt tribute to the love of movies, good and bad alike. - by Jeremy Beday - allmovie

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Il Grido (1957)

The grim, drab life of a man who labors in a Po Valley sugar refinery in northern Italy provides the center of this black-and-white drama from Michelangelo Antonioni. The worker lives with a married woman and their young daughter. One day, the woman learns that her legal spouse died. The refinery worker immediately proposes, but she spurns him in favor of another. Deeply depressed, the laborer begins to drift aimlessly across the northern wasteland with his daughter in tow. Along the way, he meets many people, including a woman from his past. Despite his many low-key adventures, he is unable to forget his daughter's mother and so returns to find that she lives in a new home with a new child. The story comes to its climax during a demonstration protesting the building of a U.S. airfield where the refinery stands. - by Sandra Brennan - allmovie

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Santa sangre (1989)


Circus horrors cross over into the mundane world in this terrifying, psychedelic film from Alejandro Jodorowsky, the man who brought you the infamous El Topo. Fenix (Adan Jodorowsky, the director's son) is the son of a circus strongman (Guy Stockwell) and an aerialist (Blanca Guerra). One night, the mother sees from her high perspective that her husband is fooling around with the tattooed lady. She later confronts him and throws acid on him in retaliation. He saws off her arms in return and kills himself. Fenix, witness to all this, runs away raving. Years later, Fenix (now played by older brother Axel Jodorowski) is released from an insane asylum by his armless mother. She wants to go on a murderous revenge spree, and maybe play a little piano, and she needs Fenix to be her arms for both tasks. Though the film has some of the hallucinatory qualities of Jodorowsky's earlier films, Santa Sangre doesn't quite have the same punch, particularly in terms of cerebral and emotional impact, despite its fine visuals. Santa Sangre is available in both R-rated and NC-17 edits. - by John Voorhees - allmovie

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Mariée était en noir, La (1968)


This Francois Truffaut thriller is based ona novel by William Irish (aka Cornell Woolrich), whose books had been adapted by Alfred Hitchcock on many previous occasions. Jeanne Moreau stars as a woman whose fiancé is nastily murdered by five men. Utilizing a series of disguises, the cool-customer Moreau tracks down all five culprits, sexually enslaves them, and then engineers their deaths. The ominous musical score was written by Bernard Herrmann, another frequent Hitchcock collaborator. The Bride Wore Black was initially released in France as La Mariee etait en Noir. - by Hal Erickson - allmovie

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Uomo delle stelle, L' (1995)


This Italian film was released in 1995 and slowly made its way around the world; its English title is The Star Maker. Like the Oscar-winning Cinema Paradiso by the same writer-director, Guiseppe Tornatore, it's drenched in the filmmaker's love for cinema. In Sicily in the early 1950s, Joe Morelli (Sergio Castellitto) is a con man who travels by truck from village to village posing as a film company representative. For a fee, he offers the rubes screen tests, using passages from a script of Gone with the Wind and encouraging their hopes with lines such as "Success awaits you!" Morelli's camera brings out people's hidden sides, including a soldier's war trauma, a woman's protests at being accused of prostitution, and a policeman who recites poetry. Begging for a chance at the stardom Morelli purportedly offers, Beata (Tiziana Lodato) asks Morelli to take her with him. - by Michael Betzold - allmovie

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