Month: March 2009

the Boys from Brazil (Franklin Schaffner, 1978)

USA/UK, 125 min

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Infamous Nazi Josef Mengele (Gregory Peck) has been secretly working for decades on a horrifying genetic experiment with devastating implications.  An aging but determined ‘Nazi hunter’ (Laurence Olivier) strives to put an end to the project. Featuring a very young Steve Guttenberg as “annoying Jew #1”.

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Momma Don’t Allow (Reisz/Richardson, 1956)

UK, 22 min

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dance, teddy boy, dance…
don’t worry; that duck’s ass
at the back of your head
looks mighty fine

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well, obviously i’ve been on  a free cinema kick for the last few days. i recommend all these films as great context to anyone interested in brit cinema, especially fans of the british new wave and/or the “angry young man” and kitchen sink realism dramas from that period.

this entry is by karel reisz (director of saturday night & sunday morning, producer of anderson’s this sporting life) and tony richardson (look back in anger, a taste of honey, the loneliness of the long distance runner).

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the film depicts an evening at a jazz club, but the directors designed it to give a sense of narrative. like the others i’ve seen thus far, it has great music. this time it’s from a live jazz band.  (see full synopsis from screenonline at the end of this entry.)

while it lacks the sense of spontaneity of the last two i watched (several parts are obviously highly staged), it does have the advantage of exploring its subjects – youngish members of the working class and the emerging youth culture – in more depth, and with far more affection than o dreamland or nice time.

it’s of particular interest for its fantastic footage of kids dancin’ up a storm (wish i knew what little trot they’re doing), youth fashion, and for featuring an awkward mixing of proles and middle class brits.

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(where and when did these kids used to learn their dance steps? did they need to be taught, or did they learn by example? whose example? argh. also, if anyone knows of a doc that depicts these lads actually putting the brilliantine [or whatever] in their hair… hook me up)

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Nice Time (Goretta/Tanner, 1957)

UK, 17 min

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Goretta and Tanner’s inimitable souvenir of Piccadilly Circus is what Jean Vigo described as a ‘point de vue documentaire’. The directors thread together the disparate sounds and images of a Saturday night out as the crowds gather around Eros.  bfi

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another superb serving from the free cinema movement. fucking nectar. i will continue seeking these docs out with wild fervor.

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from screenonline:

In September 1956, two young Swiss film enthusiasts, Claude Goretta and Alain Tanner applied for a grant from the British Film Institute to finance a film about London’s Piccadilly on Saturday night. Both in their mid-twenties, they were working at the BFI, where they had met Lindsay Anderson and the other Free Cinema members, as well film critics like Derek Prouse and John Berger, who offered encouragement and support.

At the BFI they also discovered the work of film-makers like Jean Vigo, a major influence. But it was the success of the…

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Man Bites Dog (Rémy Belvaux/et al., 1992)

AKA Man Bites Dog: It Happened in Your Neighborhood
C’est arrivé près de chez vous

BE, 95 min

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this was on “the list” for so long i had forgotten the premise entirely (ideal circumstances for watching almost any film).  hilarity.

i’ve uploaded the perfect taste – the film’s opening moments: here.

reel :: imdb

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O Dreamland (Lindsay Anderson, 1953)

UK, 12 min

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O Dreamland manifests Anderson’s distaste for the noisy vulgarity of Margate’s Dreamland Fun Fair. A careful montage of images and natural sound recalls the seediness of the attractions as articulated by the mocking mechanical laughter of the dummy sailor. Inescapably, the merciless candid camera reflects the middle-class condescension to the working class, picturing them alternately as being exploited, or being complicit in their exploitation. —— bfi

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i loved this. leering reminders of the overwhelming coney island project i had to work on last year. (view full post for more delicious caps and a swell little essay from screenonline.)

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Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs (1943)

USA, 7 min

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… swingin’!

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Merrie Melodies cartoon by Bob Clampett of Looney Tunes fame.

An all-black parody of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale Snow-White (known to its audience from the popular 1937 Walt Disney animated feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs). Notorious for being one of the “Censored Eleven”: eleven Schlesinger/Warner Bros. cartoons produced at the height of the Golden Age of Hollywood animation based on racist humor.

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Clampett is responsible for some important early animation work with Chuck Jones, et al., in the early…

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Cinétracts (Marker/Godard/Resnais/et al.; 1968)

Ciné-Tracts
FR, 68 min

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A series of documentary shorts, directed (without credit) by several famous French filmmakers, each running between two and four minutes. Each “tract” espouses a leftist political viewpoint through the filmed depiction of real-life events, including workers’ strikes and the events of Paris in May ’68.

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slightly elaborated description from LUX agency (via chrismarker.org) :

Made by politically committed film-makers to serve as agit-prop for the events of May ‘68, these films rely exclusively on stills rather than documentary footage, yet the sense of contrast and movement is very strong and the films very effectively make their point; they attempt to catch the spirit, rather than the fact, of the May Revolution. And although made anonymously, one can detect the hands of Godard, Marker et. al.

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an essay (pdf)

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Britannia Hospital (Lindsay Anderson, 1982)

UK, 116 min

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was finally able to watch this, the third entry in anderson’s mick travis “trilogy”. why is this one so seldom-watched? it’s very funny, and has a terrific cast. (i could mention several examples, but instead i’ll only point out the small, comic role of the hospital radio dj, performed by the superb richard griffiths – a man who can play any role, as long as it’s british and fat.)

it’s less surreal than its predecessors, but it far exceeded my expectations. i think i even prefer it to the also-zany o lucky man!… (i wasn’t wild about the whole alan-price-as-musical-greek-chorus shtick in that film, although i’m admittedly overdue for my first repeat viewing. if…, of course, is fucking untouchable.)

will finish capping later; in the meantime, enjoy these non-representative mark hamill shots…

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"gee, this is much easier than playing a jedi knight... i love acting!"