Just a Question of Love

Just a Question of Love. Christian Faure. 2000.

Oh, I thought this was a movie by that Hong Kong guy… Wong Kar-wai? Yes.

It’s not.

Oh! It’s an old-style French movie about young gay romance. Yay? It feels like it comes from a different century. Which it does, if you’re one of those weirdos that start counting at year one instead of year zero.

The DVD transfer is odd: The bit rate is 50% lower than on normal DVDs and whenever the camera pans, everything goes all choppy.

Incisive:

Anyway, aside from the fact that the main guy was fugly, it was pretty good

It’s a sweet movie, but it’s difficult not to be impatient with this type of narrative now.

Melinda and Melinda


Allen writes such naturalistic dialogue. Of course, here it’s supposed to be awful…

See?

Melinda and Melinda. Woody Allen. 2004.

I bought a box set of Woody Allen movies (I know; boo hiss), and this can probably be termed late-stage Allen? I stopped following him like a decade earlier, because I felt that all his movies were about the same set of upper west Manhattan dwellers that didn’t really interest me that much. Crimes and Misdemeanors (from 1989) may have been the last one I saw? I may be wrong.

But somehow, I think this is one I’ve seen before. It’s super-meta: There’s a framing story where a bunch of screen writers are speculating about how to make an anecdote into either a comedy or a tragedy, and we get to see the different takes on the different scenes.

Except for the meta bits (which are kinda exhilarating at times), this movie is everything I stopped watching Allen for. Characters I have no interest in and actors that are doing cosplays of Allen’s 70s movies. (Except Chiwetel Ejiofor, who has nobody to cosplay.) This movie has the added disincentive of having a bunch of stand up comedians popping by.

The Treatment

Does the Belgian police really wear those red arm bands? That’s just bizarre.

Are those armbands for real!? I tried googling them but came up blank.

The Treatment. Hans Herbots. 2014.

Eep. This is a movie I bought at random for my one-movie-per-country blog series, but I didn’t watch it because it looked like it was New French (only Belgian) Extreme Cinema.

But I’m giving it a try now in case I was wrong… but I’m ready to bail if it get too grisly.

It starts off with a paedophile frolicking with a boy in a field.

*sigh*

Hm… but is this more of a police procedural? It’s very dark. I mean, everything is risibly in need of more light bulbs: Nurses are working under 2W lamps…

Hey! Almost all the tomatoes like it.

It really is a police procedural. If it hadn’t been for the extreme levels of (thankfully only implied (so far, I’m writing this at the 20 minute mark)) horrors, it could have been a BBC TV series. It’s got all the clich├ęs, with the investigator having his own daemons; the retired cop with the clues; going rogue; ad nauseam (and I mean that literally).

OK, now there’s an autopsy and I skipped forwards a bit.

This is a competently made thriller, but it’s kinda ridic. It’s so over the top. The only way this movie even remotely works is by bludgeoning the audience with the horrors shown and alluded to.

Vegas Vacation

Vegas Vacation. Stephen Kessler. 1997.

So this is part of the National Lampoon “vacation” series? I’m not quite sure how I come to have this DVD, but I think it may have been part of a box set…

I think I’ve probably seen these movies before? But I have no recollection of this one.

I thought it started off pretty well, with quite a few good jokes. But then it just went… boring…

It’s not so much that the jokes are lame (and they are), but that there’s so few of them. There’s even minutes where there’s nothing that can be identified as an attempt at a joke. And when there’s a gag it usually doesn’t land. And you can see how you’d just tweak some of these gags slightly and they’d work.

But it’s otherwise well made, I guess? There’s nothing annoying in the viewing experience.

It’s just not very funny.

I did like the “Guess what number” casino.

Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead

Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead. Sidney Lumet. 2007.

How odd. I’ve seen the first three minutes of this before, according to Emacs. But… I bailed?

So this is Sydney Lumet, they guy who did a gazillion worthy movies in the 70s. Like Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, The Verdict, Equus… I haven’t seen a movie of his since Deathtrap in 1982, so I don’t know whether this movie (his final) is an anomaly for him or not.

Going by my extremely limited knowledge of him, if I were nasty I’d say that he’d seen Pulp Fiction and too much New Era Of Quality TV and then decided to make something m. o. d. e. r. n.

It has it all: Small-time crooks; hyperviolence; a messed-up timeline; oh-so-ironic outcomes; etc.

In short: It’s pretty awful.

It features two actors I know a lot of people like: Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke. I don’t particularly like either of them. At least Marisa Tomei and Albert Finney is in here to class things up.

I’m guessing this was a successful strategy, because:

The critical consensus reads: “A tense and effective thriller, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead marks a triumphant return to form for director Sidney Lumet.

People love this kind of thing! I mean, The Sopranos was wildly successful and it as all about listening to some moron nattering on about whatever, and that was endlessly fascinating because bad boys are so interesting. Showing a criminal not being a monster 100% of the is just so deep!

The cinematography’s pretty awful. It looks like a digital video shoot, and those didn’t start getting good until a few years after this was shot.

It’s an ugly, boring movie.

The Birds

The Birds. Alfred Hitchcock. 1963.

What! It’s in colour! I’ve seen this before, of course, and in my mind’s eye it’s in black and white!

I realise now that I don’t remember anything about this movie. I just vaguely remember Tippi Hedren being attacked by some… crows? Sitting on some telephone wires? Oh. I’m not the only one…

ANYWAY.

What’s so striking about this movie is that there’s really no hint at the start of the movie of what even the genre is, or even where the plot is going in a general sense. It’s so weird!

Until the first gull attack, it’s amusing and puzzling, but from there on it’s absolutely riveting. The creeping horror intensifying slowly, slowly…

One bit that just doesn’t work is all the womenfolk reacting in sheer passive horror at the proceedings while The Man goes around shuttering all the windows. And Hitchcock has a real problem with the main horror concept here: There’s no way these birds can harm anybody without somebody willingly walking into a room full of the birbs and then shutting the door behind them, so, of course, that’s what happens.

Still, there’s so much powerful imagery in here.

And, of course, Hitchcock was abusing Tippi Hedren throughout the making of this movie, because she refused to have sex with him. Some of the bird attack scenes were horrifying for her, too.

Kiss Me, Stupid

Kiss Me, Stupid. Billy Wilder. 1964.

I watched a Billy Wilder movie yesterday, so I thought I might as well watch the final movie in the DVD box set I bought at least a decade ago. Making room on the to-be-watched shelf!

I like Billy Wilder, but he’s not really a director that I find… er… interesting? He makes dependably funny movies: Well-made, uncomplicated, supremely Hollywood from cinematography to how the actors deliver their lines.

For a while, it seemed like any professional director from this era got a reappraisal as an auteur (Emeric Pressburger, Douglas Sirk etc), but I don’t think that’s happened with Wilder? Perhaps it has but I just missed it?

ANYWAY.

This starts off quite amusingly with Dean Martin on stage, and then we move to a little town in the boondocks where Ray Walston lives a life of insane jealousy and hopes of becoming a famous composer. He fantastic in the role, but the role is perhaps more unpleasant than intended.

I feel like this should have been more engaging than it is. The individual scenes are satisfyingly kooky but the pacing seems too slow. If this had been a movie from the 40s, it’d have been half an hour shorter and a lot snappier. It feels like Wilder takes too much time setting things up, so in the end the entire movie is mostly moving the pieces into position (at the one hour mark).

The last hour has some LOL out loud bits and works much better. Except some particularly creepy bits.

Witness for the Prosecution


Witness for the Prosecution. Billy Wilder. 1957.

Hey! Billy Wilder! Oh, yeah. I bought a box set some years ago and this is the only movie from that set I haven’t seen yet.

And it’s based on an Agatha Christie short story?

Charles Laughton, fatter than ever, is present, as is Marlene Dietrich and Tyrone Power. And Elsa Lanchester!

What! This is the 66th most top-rated movie on imdb? How odd. I haven’t heard of this movie.

This is really a throwback to screwball comedies from decades ago. The dialogue snaps and crackles, and there’s all these little uncommented-upon sight gags going on in the background. It’s really fun!

But when the movie disappears into the courts, the it loses some sparkle. It devolves into a quite amusing TV courts drama, but that’s a bit of a disappointment.

On the other hand, it’s such a simple, straightforward movie that all the expected unexpected twists and turns feel comfortable and strangely satisfying.

It does what it does extremely well. Best in class.

Even Money

Aw shucks.

He just can’t stay mad!

I’m pensing! I’m pensing!

All work and no play.

OK, I can’t watch this.

Or… OK… I’ll give it ten more minutes.

OK, I gave it ten more minutes but it didn’t help.

Even Money. Mark Rydell. 2006.

This is the night of DVDs which I have no idea why I possess: So here’s the most befuddling one. I have two copies of this DVD. But why! Do I have even one?

This has like all my least favourite actors, like Kelsey Grammer and Forest Whitaker. And, OK, Kim Basinger.

And it has Tim Roth, who I like quite a lot.

And by a director I’ve never heard of but who namechecked himself like a dozen times before the movie started.

Hm… Oh, he did On Olden Pond. That wasn’t very good.

OK… perhaps… I received these DVDs as packaging? Did I mean to buy something called something vaguely like “Even Money”?

Oh god. This is about sports.

I watched the first fifteen minutes, but this is the worst thing ever, so I’m bailing.

I’m going with the “packing material” hypothesis.

Sunday Bloody Sunday

Sunday Bloody Sunday. John Schlesinger. 1971.

There’s a few movies I have that I have no idea why I’ve bought. Some of these may just be things I’ve picked up at random at sales, but not this one, I think.

From the name of the movie, I’m assuming it has something to do with the Irish Problem.

John Schlesinger… the name sounds familiar, but I can’t quite place it.

Ah! Midnight Cowboy and Marathon Man. I’ve seen those. Otherwise not a lot from his career…

Oh! It’s not about the IRA at all.

This is intensely late-60s British: All muted browns and greens and beige. Everything’s so outrageous: Older women (and men) having affairs with young hunks; children smoking pot; rubbing cigarette ashes into carpets.

The woman looks awfully familiar. Glenda Jackson. I feel like I must her a gazillion times, but looking at her imdb, I’m getting nothing. Perhaps The Music Lovers? Or perhaps a TV series of some kind?

So now that I know what the genre is (at 20 minutes in), I’m making this prediction: The gayest one will die, and the two other ones will have learned something deep about their own lives.

OK, enough with the cynicism: Even if the script feels like a random walk of Pressing Issues, it’s difficult not to be entranced by some of these scenes. The performances are marvellous. The cinematography is… er… clear: We’re being shown things in a most didactic manner. And the phone service thing to tie everything together is quite clever.

And spoiler: my prediction was totally off the mark. This is a really good movie.