Saturday, June 30, 2007

June 30th Log

1956, Kon Ichikawa, Japan
Repeat Viewing, DVD

Kon Ichikawa's The Burmese Harp is often celebrated among the greatest classics of Japanese cinema. This is the type of film that is moving and important. It has the power to inspire and to deeply resonant in the memory of the viewer. Made in 1956 the film deals with serious issues of pacifism and of life and death. The film is based on a novel by Michio Takeyama, and tells the story of a solider (Mizushima) who after World War 2 chooses to remain alone as a monk so he can bury the dead. Mizushima has been transcended spiritually towards enlightenment. Painful or lonely as it may be Mizushima is on a personal journey. He has gained a greater sense of meaning through the horror of war that he witnessed. The Burmese Harp expresses this through the haunting aftermath of war. The film also details this connection of the human soul with nature as we see dead bodies of soldiers throughout the peaceful contrast of the environment. The film closes with a title card reading: "In Burma, soil is red, and so are the rocks", which heightens the expression of soul and nature as a tragic one in the face of war. Today some moments may be deemed sentimental but only in the slightest. Kon Ichikawa has made a film that stands as an important one of the time, but its themes of peace and humanity deserve to be embraced on a universal level. There are so many powerful moments to this film (the soldiers singing as Mizushima plays the harp alone in the Buddha statute; Mizushima playing the harp for his friends; Mizushima’s goodbye letter). The Burmese Harp was the film that earned Ichikawa recognition throughout his native Japan and sprecifically throughout the world (it won two awards at the Venice Film Festival). It stands as a true landmark of Japanese cinema.

>>> Here is a clip from The Burmese Harp:

1963, Alfred Hitchcock, United States
Repeat Viewing, Encore

The Birds is one of the great Alfred Hitchcock’s most celebrated films. While I prefer many others over this film, The Birds is one that intrigues me with each viewing. There is such a subtle complexity and mysterious (perhaps philosophical?) depth to the film. Tippi Hedren is flawed but satisfactory enough here in the prototypical Hitchcock-blonde role. She is quite lovely, but her acting proved to be much stronger under Hitchcock’s direction in Marnie (made the following year). What is so intriguing about the film is that everything is left for interpretation and when it reaches it end, the film answers nothing and only subtly offers possibilities. Essentially the film leaves hints into a several possibilities and interpretations, but it is ultimately left for the viewer to ponder. Perhaps that is why the film has held so strong over time. Of course stylistically there is plenty of trademark Hitchcock innovation at work and some masterful sequences (most notably the now iconic moment of Hedren at the playground being surrounded by birds). There is no music to the film, but Bernard Hermann adds his presence through the sounds in the film. The Birds is (to me anyway) not Hitchcock at his very best, but it is among his most simple and mysterious.


PUTNEY SWOPE (1969, Robert Downey)

SALESMAN (1969, Maysles Brothers)

FACES (1968, John Cassavetes)

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968, George Romero)

THE PARTY (1968, Blake Edwards)

ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968, Roman Polanski)

BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967, Arthur Penn)

THE SHOOTING (1967, Monte Hellman)

WAVELENGTH (1967, Michael Snow)

BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING (1965, Otto Preminger)

RIDE IN THE WHIRLWIND (1965, Monte Hellman)

MARNIE (1964, Alfred Hitchcock)

MY FAIR LADY (1964, George Cukor)

SHOCK CORRIDOR (1963, Samuel Fuller)

ADVISE AND CONSENT (1962, Otto Preminger)

DOG STAR MAN (1962, Stan Brakhage)


THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962, John Frankenheimer)


BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (1961, Blake Edwards)

THE HUSTLER (1961, Robert Rossen)

ONE TWO THREE (1961, Billy Wilder)

JAZZ ON A SUMMER’S DAY (1960, Bert Stern)

>>> Alternate Essentials of American Cinema -- previous posts:

Friday, June 29, 2007

June 29th Log

1953, Yasujiro Ozu, Japan
Repeat Viewing, DVD

Widely considered among the greatest films in the history of Japanese cinema, Ozu's 1953 Tokyo Story stands as a true masterpiece of filmmaking. Tokyo Story is a reflective film about morals, selfishness, and youth's treatment (or mistreatment) of the elderly. But it's also a deeply moving love story, while never being manipulative or over-sentimental as Ozu achieves the most moving emotions through his trademark simplistic style. The film's final moments and images represent the power of love, and the need for human connection in a way that is unforgettably sad - captured through Ozu's transcendent cinematic language and of course Setsuko Hara's stunning performance. Every single shot is beautifully and expressively composed and Tokyo Story may feature Ozu's most prominent use of his defining "pillow shots". At the core this is a film of the inevitability of life changing and the transcient acceptance of this inevitability. This is expressed in both the changes of a postwar Japanese society and more specifically of the family. By presenting these daily life cycles and changes through generations of a family, Ozu has created a film that is widely universal and transcendent. It is the ordinary routines that can hide the sadness of life, but it is the willingness to accept sadness and change as part of the life cycle. Life does goes on and Tokyo Story understands and accepts this as something that must be. Ultimately the film captures this in the end as the family has been destroyed and we come back full circle to where it began. Tokyo Story is one of the most moving films ever made. It understandings and complexities of human emotion and behavior is flawless and under the minimalist direction of Ozu's style as well as the superb performances by his cast, Tokyo Story emerges as one of the truly great film achievements in the history of world cinema. A classic film to cherish and to revisit.

>>> More on Tokyo Story @ A2P Cinema's Yasujiro Ozu website HERE

>>> Here is a clip from Tokyo Story:

Thursday, June 28, 2007


BEING THERE (1979, Hal Ashby)

MANHATTAN (1979, Woody Allen)

DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978, George Romero)

DAYS OF HEAVEN (1978, Terence Malick)

HALLOWEEN (1978, John Carpenter)

3 WOMEN (1977, Robert Altman)

ERASERHEAD (1977, David Lynch)

KILLER OF SHEEP (1977, Charles Burnett)

MARTIN (1977, George Romero)

OPENING NIGHT (1977, John Cassavetes)


MIKEY AND NICKY (1976, Elaine May)

DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975, Sidney Lumet)

CALIFORNIA SPLIT (1974, Robert Altman)

THE CONVERSATION (1974, Francis Ford Coppola)

THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3 (1974, Joseph Sargent)

A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE (1974, John Cassavetes)

BADLANDS (1973, Terrence Malick)

THE LAST DETAIL (1973, Hal Ashby)

THE LONG GOODBYE (1973, Robert Altman)

MEAN STREETS (1973, Martin Scorsese)

PAPER MOON (1973, Peter Bogdanovich)


DELIVERANCE (1972, John Boorman)

THE HEARTBREAK KID (1972, Elaine May)

WHAT’S UP DOC? (1972, Peter Bogdanovich)

HAROLD AND MAUDE (1971, Hal Ashby)

MCCABE & MRS. MILLER (1971, Robert Altman)

FIVE EASY PIECES (1970, Bob Rafelson)

GIMME SHELTER (1970, Maysles Brothers)

>>> Alternate Essentials of American Cinema -- previous posts:
- 1980s

June 28th Log

1953, Ida Lupino, United States

1st Viewing, DVD

Who will be his next victim…YOU?” Ida Lupino was a truly rare talent in Hollywood. A great actress, Lupino became Hollywood first major director of the studio era. Her interest in directing began during the making of Streets on Sin, as Lupino took over for Elmer Clifton during his sickness. Later that year, Lupino began working on B noirs for RKO and this continued throughout the 1950s. Among her finest films was this noir thriller from 1953. Lupino was a skilled directed with a strong ability to work with actors (obviously) and a wonderful sense of pacing., This simple film moves along at just the right pace to keep the viewer fully invested in the suspense and the drama within. Without pretension, Lupino was excellent with camera movement and placement, and she would often setup some unique shots (all of which worked fittingly alongside the B-noirs of the era). The film is based off a true story and the opening title card suggest a sense that this could occur to anyone. That is the center of Lupino’s (who co-wrote the screenplay) focus, as tries to fully developed the emotional despair of the two men who are on a doomed path towards their death. Through them, Lupino finds the emotional core of this film Edmund O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy are terrific as the everyday husbands, but William Talman steals the show as the psychotic hitch-hiker.

1951, Mikio Naruse, Japan
Repeat Viewing, DVD

I am moved by the sadness to be found in the simple lives of people in the limitless space of the universe.” Mikio Naruse's Repast is adapted from a novel by Fumiko Hayashi (the film opens with this powerful quote from the author). Hayashi was Naruse’s favorite author and her female perspective seamlessly integrated with Naruse’s woman psychological point of view. Repast is another shomin-geki (working class) family drama of a troubled marriage. Here we find a woman (Michiyo) who is stuck with a man that is uninterested in sharing a life with her outside of her daily house chores (cooking and cleaning). Played by the incomparable Setsuko Hara, Michiyo is on the verge of exploding at the sight of her husbands (played by Ken Uehara) flirtatious actions when his younger niece arrives. She longs for happiness, and to return to her home in Tokyo with her mother and siblings. However, when she returns, she discovers a postwar city now in destruction and sadness. Ultimately Michiyo decides that perhaps she is best to return to her husband (and of course her beloved cat). Hara’s performance is absolutely astonishing in the way she conveys complex feelings through subtle movements and gestures. Always a beautiful and elegant screen presence, Hara typifies the psychological state of her characters hidden sadness through an exterior smile and laughter. Yet she is complicated and imperfect herself, as Naruse presents these characters not as a heroine or villain, but as deeply human. Naruse builds a mood through these buried emotions and complexities of the characters. As with all his films, Naruse captures a pitch perfect tone in which he flawlessly controls the emotional reality of the characters and storytelling. In the end, Michiyo returns to her husband even if there is no hope for a future she longs for. Is this an acceptance of suffering? Perhaps, but I think Naruse expresses it more in a way of understanding the way things are rather the accepting. By that I mean an understanding of human behavior and an understanding of the moment. This is neither sadness or happiness, but rather just the moment. Repast is another emotionally complex masterwork from one of the most authentic filmmakers in defining the essence of human emotion and behavior.

>> The opening moments from Repast:

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


SAY ANYTHING… (1989, Cameron Crowe)

BEETLEJUICE (1988, Tim Burton)

BIRD (1988, Clint Eastwood)

DIE HARD (1988, John McTiernan)

HAIRSPRAY (1988, John Waters)

WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT? (Robert Zemeckis, 1988)

HOUSE OF GAMES (1987, David Mamet)

EMPIRE OF THE SUN (1987, Steven Spielberg)

RAISING ARIZONA (1987, Coen Brothers)


ALIENS (1986, James Cameron)

HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (1986, Woody Allen)

AFTER HOURS (1985, Martin Scorsese)

PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE (1985, Tim Burton)

PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO (1985, Woody Allen)

BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985, Robert Zemeckis)

AMADEUS (1984, Milos Forman)

BLOOD SIMPLE (1984, Coen Brothers)

BROADWAY DANNY ROSE (1984, Woody Allen)

LOVE STREAMS (1984, John Cassavetes)


KOYAANISQATSI (1983, Godfrey Reggio)

MY BROTHER’S WEDDING (1983, Charles Burnett)

BURDEN OF DREAMS (1982, Les Blank)

BLOW OUT (1981, Brian De Palma)

THE EVIL DEAD (1981, Sam Raimi)

MY DINNER WITH ANDRE (1981, Louis Malle)

DRESSED TO KILL (1980, Brian De Palma)

THE BIG RED ONE (1980, Samuel Fuller)

THE ELEPHANT MAN (1980, David Lynch)

MELVIN AND HOWARD (1980, Jonathan Demme)

ORDINARY PEOPLE (1980, Robert Redford)

THE SHINING (1980, Stanley Kubrick)

>>> Alternate Essentials of American Cinema -- previous posts:

June 27th Log

1959, Howard Hawks, United States
1st Viewing, DVD

Think your good enough?” The Howard Hawks trademarks themes have never been clearer then are here with Rio Bravo, one of his most beloved and most purely entertaining films of his incredible filmography. There really are very few flaws to this film, which tells it’s story directly and without force or flashy style and technique. As always, Hawks finely crafts the film and the characters at his own leisurely pace blending elements of action, comedy, and romance within the western setting. This was Hawks return to filmmaking after a 4-year hiatus. He opens the film with an equally dazzling and bizarre action sequence that is almost completely without dialogue. This sets the pace for the rhythmic flow of the film and sets up the characters who are gradually developed further as several subplots submerge into a beautiful film of morals and values that define Hawks as a filmmaker. The cast is perfect, with the great John Wayne leading the way in a role he was more then capable of handling. Here as Sheriff John T. Chance he plays the trademark hero figure. Starring in his second of five Wayne gives one collaborations with Hawks, this is one of Wayne’s very best performances. His chemistry with the cast is exceptional, especially Angie Dickinson who here is playing the quintessential Hawksian female in the way she mixes it up with the guys. Together Wayne and Dickinson capture that magical wit and charm of Hawks screwball romantic comedies. Of course not to forget is the supporting performance given by Walter Brennan, one of the greatest “character” actors in American film. In Rio Bravo, Brennan seems to be a recycling of his other roles with Hawks, but you really can never get enough of him. Rio Bravo is one of the truly definitive Howard Hawks films. At the center of just about every Hawks film lies characters that must rely on or believe in each other. This is clearly defined here, in a film that is pure old-fashioned Hollywood filmmaking at its best. Why did it take me so long to see this one!?!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


BEING JOHN MALKOVICH (1999, Spike Jonze)

ELECTION (1999, Alexander Payne)

EYES WIDE SHUT (1999, Stanley Kubrick)

THE IRON GIANT (1999, Brad Bird)

MAGNOLIA (1999, Paul Thomas Anderson)

THE MATRIX (1999, Wachowski Brothers)

SWEET AND LOWDOWN (1999, Woody Allen)

THREE KINGS (1999, David O. Russell)

THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998, Coen Brothers)

BULWORTH (1998, Warren Beatty)

RUSHMORE (1998, Wes Anderson)

THE THIN RED LINE (1998, Terrence Malick)

BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997, Paul Thomas Anderson)

CONTACT (1997, Robert Zemeckis)

FAST, CHEAP, AND OUT OF CONTROL (1997, Errol Morris)

IN THE COMPANY OF MEN (1997, Neil Labute)

KUNDUN (1997 Martin Scorsese)

FARGO (1996, Coen Brothers)

BEFORE SUNRISE (1995, Richard Linklater)

CASINO (1995, Martin Scorsese)

DEAD MAN (1995, Jim Jarmusch)

HEAT (1995, Michael Mann)

SAFE (1995, Todd Haynes)


ED WOOD (1994, Tim Burton)

GROUNDHOG DAY (1993, Harold Ramis)

SHORT CUTS (1993, Robert Altman)

GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS (1992, James Foley)

THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS (1992. Michael Mann)

THE PLAYER (1992, Robert Altman)

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991, Gary Trousdale)

CITY OF HOPE (1991, John Sayles)


TO SLEEP WITH ANGER (1990, Charles Burnett)

METROPOLITAN (1990, Whit Stillman)
>>> Alternate Essentials of American Cinema -- previous posts:
- 2000s

Monday, June 25, 2007


CHILDREN OF MEN (Alfonso Cuaron, 2006)

THE FOUNTAIN (2006, Darren Aronofsky)

MARIE ANTOINETTE (2006, Sofia Coppola)

MUTUAL APPRECIATION (2006, Andrew Bujalski)


A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005, David Cronenberg)

MATCH POINT (2005, Woody Allen)

THE NEW WORLD (2005, Terrence Malick)

BEFORE SUNSET (2004, Richard Linklater)


MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2004, Clint Eastwood)

ALL THE REAL GIRLS (2003, David Gordon Green)

ELEPHANT (2003, Gus Van Sant)

THE SCHOOL OF ROCK (2003, Richard Linklater)


25TH HOUR (2002, Spike Lee)

FAR FROM HEAVEN (2002, Todd Haynes)

FUNNY HA HA (2002, Andrew Bujalski)

PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE (2002, Paul Thomas Anderson)

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (2001, Steven Spielberg)
IN THE BEDROOM (2001, Todd Field)

MONSTER’S, INC (2001, Peter Docter)

GEORGE WASHINGTON (2000, David Gordon Green)
>>> Alternate Essentials of American Cinema -- previous posts:


by A2P Cinema

The recent 10th Anniversary of the AFI 100 Greatest Films has inspired me to revisit some of the many classics of American cinema. In doing so, I generated this list of ‘Alternate Essentials’, which are films that did not make the AFI list, but are to me essential films of American history. Many of these films are well known, some less then others, but ultimately each of these films are vital masterworks of American film.

This ‘alternate’ list is just that, an alternate list of films that did not make the AFI’s 100 Greatest Films, but should still be considered required viewing. These are not the ONLY essential films of American film, but rather a select few that were forgotten by the AFI list.

Obviously there are some films missing from this list (some of which I probably have yet to see), but here are A2P Cinema’s ‘ALTERNATE ESSENTIALS OF AMERICAN CINEMA’ (listed in reverse chronological order):

Sunday, June 24, 2007

June 24th Log

1956, Mikio Naruse, Japan

Repeat Viewing, DVD

Flowing is simply a perfect film. It is an ensemble film centering on the world of woman living in a geisha house (called Tsuta). The film is a parallel of life daily flow and of the crisis of the geisha house. Flowing cuts between several storylines of each woman of the geisha house. The house is rather small and confined which only heightens the flow of everyday life. Men are hardly seen, but there presence is felt in the financial burden of the geisha house (as well as the reality that the geisha house is survived to serve men (but Flowing is certainly not a film set on sensationalizing geishas in the way many films do). As is a Naruse trademark money and debt obligations becoming a critical factor. From the opening shot, Flowing becomes a film of the flow of life. Within the troubles of the geisha house lies the films emotional core, which is that of the maid, played by the great Kinuyo Tanaka. She is nicknamed Oharu (reminding viewers of her career defining role in Kenji Mizoguchi’s 1952 masterpiece Life of Oharu), and she represents the everyday daily flow of life in the most endearing and caring manner. Oharu is like the outside observer of this world, as Flowing may above all be a film which unites together two different worlds of Japanese women. Each of these women are portrayed with such depth and insight and the powerful ensemble cast of actresses (Isuzu Yamada, Hideko Takamine, Mariko Okada, Haruko Sugimura, Sumiko Kurishima, Chieko Nakakita, Natsuko Kahara) are each outstanding. Of course, Kinuyo Tanaka is standout as the maid, but she is far from alone. There is such complexity in the narrative, the emotions, the performances, and Naruse’s mise-en-scene. However, despite all the complexities and depths at hand, Flowing remains definitive of Naruse in the simplistically formal style. As the title suggest Flowing is a film that flows between characters and between spaces within the geisha house and its environment- as well as the flow the its services and its finances. As the narrative flow moves along, the film intermittently suggest the flow of the passage of time, be it through contemplative moments (the cat, the river, the neighbors in the garden) or through subtle references of passing time (such as the aging process, or advancement of modern technology). Naruse does this all with the most simplistic and masterful stroke, leaving an ambiguous sense not of sadness or inevitability, but of the path, the choices, and the flow of life. The ending is one of the great moments of Japanese cinema. A 7-minute scene of no dialogue that openly leaves the feeling of both the inevitable demise of the geisha house (of even the traditions of the geisha), as well as celebrating the culture and art of the geisha. Naruse flows the sequence by detailing the daughter alone sewing (perhaps preparing a future profession), the maiden teaching the new class of geisha (the future of the house), and the maid fluctuating in-between the two with offerings of a treat (all while being the only one aware of the future). Truly a remarkable and complex moment all done with the touch of simplicity from Naruse, it is a reflection of the entire film and of Naruse as a master. Flowing rates alongside When a Woman Ascends the Stairs as my favorite Naruse film, and it belongs mention among the very greatest ever made.

>>> Here is a scene from Flowing:

2001, Steven Spielberg, United States

Repeat Viewing, DVD

In 1982 Stanley Kubrick purchased the rights to Brian Aldiss’s short story Super-Toys Last All Summer Long. After finishing Full Metal Jacket Kubrick began to work on Artificial IntelligenceA.I. as his next film. Kubrick was not satisfied with the initial script he was working on with Bob Shaw and Ian Watson. In 1994, he completed a partial script (with Chris Baker’s drawings) and began on the pre-production. However, Kubrick decided to postpone A.I. in hopes computer technology would improve. In 1995 he then began working on Eyes Wide Shut with A.I. to behis next film. After his death in 1999, Steven Spielberg wrote his own version based on much of Kubrick and Baker’s existing material. This particular film is Spielberg's (as he changed muchof the script- notably with the Gigilo Joe character), but ultimately it is just as much a Stanley Kubrick film. Would it have been better had Kubrick directed it? That question will forever remain unknown, but it's really not that important. However, what is known is the work that has been made, and to me it is a masterpiece collaboration of both Kubrick's and Spielberg's vision (which is surprising considering it deals with Kubrick-esque dark and disturbing examinations of the differences between human and non-human). I personally believe it stands among the very greatest films ever made and both Kubrick and Spielberg deserve equal praise. Though influences are evident, in many ways these two filmmakers have contrasting styles which, when combined, seem to really work within the themes of this film. I think A.I. was a very personal and important film to Kubrick, and he even thought much of it was more suitable for Spielberg. I believe Spielberg was very respectful of Kubrick's idea, and yet he still managed to express his own personal vision into the film. What results if a masterpiece of cinema that will stand the test of time and be recognized among the great achievements of filmmaking. Spielberg handles the subject matter perfectly. From the opening narration (one of many Kubrick homages?), the viewer is presented with a dark and chilling mood of a (artificially) secure futuristic atmosphere. It'san extremely intense and rare film that dares to be bold. We are shown humanity as a minor piece of something greater, life is simply a state of mind. Among other questions, AI asks: What makes the human race the ultimate value of emotions and awareness? If it's humans who create these computer programs and robots to act and react as humans, what determines the difference amongst them? Originally I thought the ending was a sappy cop-out, but have come to nderstand it's brilliance. It's perfect! Sure it's sentimental at it's surface, but yet underneath remains a dark, haunting, sad, and meaningful depth. Like Pinocchio, David has a dream. The dream comes true, but not from the world which created him. The ending also represents technology as humans savior (humans create mechas, now mechas create humans). David is the key to human savior; a mecha that is human. AI is a masterfully crafted, emotionally engaging, visually stunning, and ultimately thought-provoking film experience that will stay in the viewers mind long after watching. It will surely be recognized, discussed, and praised as a classic over time. "I am. I was."

Saturday, June 23, 2007

June 23rd Log

1945, Billy Wilder, United States
Repeat Viewing, Turner Classic Movies

Winner of both the Academy Award for Best Picture and the Cannes Palme d’Or, The Lost Weekend is a film worthy of it's high praise and accolades. Carried by the somber cinematography and atmosphere but strengthened by dark and complex psychological script, The Lost Weekend is a truly involving film with some brilliant Billy Wilder-esque dialogue and strong performances by Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, and Howard da Silva. Some of the subject matter may have aged a bit, but the psychological depths and fine craftsmanship of the film has not been effected at all since it's 1945 release. Ultimately, The Lost Weekend is a film of the troubles and isolation caused by alcoholism. There are moments, images, and emotions that are deeply powerful, sad, and memorable within this film. Wilder is such a brilliant screenwriter who's dialogue is always magical. Of course, he's also an outstanding director and here he collaborates perfectly with his great cinematographer (John F. Seitz) and the excellent musical composer (Miklos Roza), as well as his actors to create a film that really has little flaws. A great film!

1960, Billy Wilder, United States

Repeat Viewing, Encore

Billy Wilder's The Apartment is truly an inventive and brilliant classic romantic comedy. Some of it may seem a bit clichéd for today's standards, but this film started many of those cliches, and still holds up well over time. As with any film from Wilder, the screenplay is incredible. Every word of dialogue is important, meaningful, and honest to the development of the characters. The film works on many different comedic (or even dramatic) levels. It's funny whether viewed as a romance or satire of the everyday work environment. Really as funny as it is, I believe The Apartment works best as a love story. There are some truly sad and touching yet ultimately absolutely romantic moments. And even though you can see the ending coming, it remains effective and truly wonderful! Of course, Wilder always ended at the punchline of the story and The Apartment embodies this. It's a flawless film from direction, to acting, to cinematography, to lighting and so on. Bottom line, this is a great film from a great filmmaker, and absolutely a must see for fans of the of classic American romance comedies. "Shut up and deal."

2003, Greg Marcks, United States
1st Viewing, IFC

11:14 is an interesting and well thought out premise that is ineffectively executed. This intertwining and connected ensemble narrative is certainly nothing new, but this films fails where the great films of this kind succeed: characters. Here is a film so set on its plot devices that the characters are weakly developed. You are left with no sense of compassion or emotional involvement of any kind except frustration. Ultimately the plot devices become contrived. For the most part this film did keep my interest so I guess it had that going for it. I can imagine this film will find an audience and I will be curious to see what firs-time feature filmmaker Greg Marcks does with his next film.

Friday, June 22, 2007

June 22nd Log

2001, Guillermo del Toro, Spain / Mexico

1st Viewing, DVD

"What is a ghost? A tragedy doomed to repeat itself time and again?" So begins The Devil's Backbone, a haunting ghost story set among the horrific backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. After disappointing his fans with his big-budget Hollywood debut Mimic, Mexican cult-filmmaker Guillermo del Toro returned to his roots with this personal and highly expressive multi-genre film. The most obvious blend of genre or the core of the film lies in the roots of an old-fashioned gothic horror story set within a war film. The centerpiece of these two is the haunting image of a bomb that lies unexploded on the grounds of the orphanage. This image stands as a reminder of the presence of both the war (which they can not escape) and of the death of boy (which stands as the guilt they can not escape). Essentially they are find themselves as flawed ghosts in some way and they must find a way to come together in the face of horror. When the film reaches its climax del Toro details that the war is not over because of the aftermath it has left, yet a small hope lies in the final image of the boys walking together toward an unknown future. Del Toro has made a beautifully memorable film which blends genres and feelings of shock, terror, dark humor, and compassion.

1961, Yasujiro Ozu, Japan

Repeat Viewing, DVD

"Is this it? Is this really it?" The End of Summer rates among Ozu's most emotionally complex, challenging, and ultimately darkest films. As common with Ozu, this is a family study. Here he's examining three separate generations of a family and the relationships within them. The family is presented in such a richly textured examination and the films is able to capture the authentic feeling of "ordinary" living. There are no heroes or villains, only human beings and as is the case with Ozu the separation and miscommunication of the family results from the inevitable changed caused by a death or marriage. Here the primary focus of the family is the decline of the traditional way of life. The film blends hope and sadness to a point that seem as one, culminating in a cameo performance by Ozu-regular Chishu Ryu who reminds us of the "cycle of life" as he watches smoke pour out from a chimney. The End of Summer so closely observes humor and sadness. Simplistic, yet a deeply thought-provoking film that (like all Ozu's films) require repeat viewings to fully absorb the emotional and visual depth.

>>> More on Record of The End of Summer @ A2P Cinema's Yasujiro Ozu website HERE

>>> Here is a clip from The End of Summer:

Thursday, June 21, 2007

June 21st Log

2007, Gabor Csupo, United States
1st Viewing, DVD

With a mind like yours wide open, you could create a whole new world.” This line comes over an hour into the film, but it is one that defines it. From the perspective of an open imagination, a whole new world can be created and thus sets the stage for this wonderfully magical film of fantasy and reality and how one another can be inspired from each other. The context of Bridge to Terabithia is something richer then fantasy and reality and it is here that the film reaches great heights of imagination and emotional attachment. You feel for these characters and you feel the sense of wonder of the film. Holding it together is terrific performances from the three young actors: Josh Hutcherson, Bailee Madison, and AnnaSophia Robb, who has proven her young talent in films like Because of Winn Dixie and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Also Zooey Deschanel provides a lovely supporting role as the charming school music teacher. It easy to understand why Jesse has a crush on her, and like just about anything Deschanel has been in you are always left wanting to see more of her. This is a great family film. I think first time feature filmmaker Gabor Csupo could have gone even more inspiring with the visuals of the film, but otherwise this delivers in every aspect. Highly recommended to all audiences.

2004, Michel Gondry, United States
Repeat Viewing, HBO

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of those films that’s so good it leaves me speechless. Absolutely lovely! Heartbreakingly sad, yet wonderfully romantic and hopeful…and truly original. It’s almost like a great modern-day French New Wave film that’s never been made before (as obvious influences from Jean-Luc Godard or Alain Resnais are evident)! Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman has created some brilliant films but this is undoubtedly his finest. Director Michael Gondry’s hyper-visual style and the all fantastic performances (particularly by Kate Winslet, who is incredible) are what give Kaufman’s script it’s core, strength, and beauty. Gondry (who also wrote the story) perfectly captures the atmosphere through the use of fades, shifts of focus and handheld camera. What makes this film so special is the small little joyous details throughout (the irony of the young couple dancing over Joel as his love is being erased from his memories, Clementine’s hair color change, each representing a stage in their relationship, "I'm making a birdhouse", etc, etc). There are so many endless depths and examinations to this film. However, ultimately I believe this a film of human emotions and feelings. Eternal Sunshine shows how we are the collection of our memories, and without them, we may no longer be ourselves (even if we don’t realize it)! Discovering this is difficult at first for Joel and Clementine, however their deep human emotions and feelings can’t escape them, and leads them back to what they tried to forget. Will they last? Maybe, maybe not. Or maybe it’s simply the “journey” that’s most irresistible. While the ending is left open for interpretation it couldn’t be more perfect. This an absolute joyous film that leaves such a warm feeling and big smile of my face just thinking about!!! It's like suddenly everything is lovely and bright and happy and hopeful. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is without a doubt among my all-time favorite films. Not even Lacuna Inc has enough power or technology to erase this film from my memories!! “Enjoy it

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

June 20th Log

1953, Keisuke Kinoshita, Japan
1st Viewing, DVD

A Japanese Tragedy opens with a dazzling montage of postwar Japan news footage. These opening images quickly establish a setting and a tone, underlying the tragic atmosphere and poverty of a postwar Japan. This tragic existence remains throughout the film, which hopelessly details the heartbreakingly lingering process of recovery from war. The film incorporates a use of flashbacks and repetitive imagery (such as moving trains) to express the feeling of the past and of the transition into the future. The final shot heightens this further as we observe Hauko (played by Yuko Mochizuki) standing alone amongst the flow of the world. A Japanese Tragedy is directed by Keisuke Kinoshita, a filmmaker that always explored genres and techniques, and ultimately emerged as one of Japan’s most beloved directors (as well as one of the leading filmmakers of the Japanese New Wave). With A Japanese Tragedy Kinoshita has made a grim and difficult portrait of postwar Japan. A truly haunting and sad tragedy.

>>> Here are the opening moments from A Japanese Tragedy:

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

June 19th Log

1956, Fritz Lang, United States

1st Viewing, Turner Classic Movies

While The City Sleeps starts off almost like a horror film detailing the murder of a woman before quickly revealing the title cards. The scene quickly changes to the newsroom and it is here that the film centers its story, which is less a who-dun-it mystery then it is a race to find out who will solve the case and if there will be any more deaths leading to it. The film is directed by the great German export Fritz Lang, who regarded this as one of his favorite personal achievements, despite the fact the film earned little of the praise and accolades many of his other films received. While The City Sleeps centers around the chaotic chase to find the “Lipstick Killer” amongst the new reporters. Lang turns the film into a social study of the self-motivated news reporters and actually saves the most compassion for the murderer (slightly recalling his 1931 masterpiece M). The cast is a great one (Dana Andrews, Ida Lupino, Rhonda Fleming, Sally Forrest, George Sanders, Thomas Mitchell, Vincent Price, Howard Duff, James Craig, John Drew Barrymore Jr.).

1952, Nicholas Ray, United States
Repeat Viewing, Turner Classic Movies

On Dangerous Ground begins like a gritty film noir before shifting its tone to an expressive romantic longing that defines it’s filmmaker. Nicholas Ray centers the film around characters more so then the plot, and his favorite characters are the outsiders and misunderstood. He finds sympathy with them. These characters emerge over the second half of On Dangerous Ground, when a vengeful father (Ward Bond) and a tough cop (Robert Ryan) leave the city in pursuit of a murderer. There they find the criminals blind sister (played by the always terrific Ida Lupino) and a sense of loneliness and romanticism begin to unfold with Ryan’s character. Ryan gives a great performance as the understated hero and Lupino’s arrival comes nearly an hour in yet she transcends the beauty of the film (it is also said that Lupino assisted Ray with the direction while he was ill- she was Hollywood’s first notable female director of the era). Ray beautifully contrasts the brutal and dark city landscape with the quiet and lyrical snow-filled mountainside. Heightening this contrast is the expressive use of shadows and a masterful score from the great Bernard Herrmann. On Dangerous Ground is a tragic noir of longing. It’s beautifully made with a poetic stroke of simplicity.

Monday, June 18, 2007

June 18th Log

1944, Howard Hawks, United States
Repeat Viewing, Theater

Seeing this film on the big screen in 35mm print was a real treat!!! Hawks, Bogart, and Bacall. What a classic Hollywood trio! Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were two of the greatest on-screen actor/actress duos of all-time. Their chemistry was pitch-perfect, and each had the ability to stand out. Together they starred in four films, two of which were directed by American pioneer filmmaker Howard Hawks. The very first of these collaborations came in 1944, with To Have and Have Not. This was Bacall's debut performance, and she shines. Obviously the film owes it influence to the masterpiece, Casablanca, which may be the more celebrated film but doesn't discredited this effort. There are moments and dialogue of pure brilliance ("You know how to whistle, don’t you?”). The strength unquestionably lies in the on-screen chemistry of it's legendary performers. Also, To Have and Have Not is joyous and lovable entertainment of beautiful and brilliant filmmaking, acting and writing. Of course the famous rumor that surrounds the history of the film is that Hawks and Ernest Hemingway had a bet that Hawks could not make a successful film of Hemingways worst novel. If this rumor is true, Hemingway certainly owed Hawks money! Hawks direction is flawless and the film has a true emotional and artistic depth. The ending is truly classic! Beautiful and simple, yet absolutely perfect (Bacall's expression at the ending is an unforgettable image!). Bogart, Bacall, and Hawks would reteam two years later with an equally brilliant collaboration, The Big Sleep, which may be the definitive Bogart-Bacall picture! To Have and Have Not should not be forgotten for the classic film it remains, as well as the beginning of a golden screen couple. "Hey slim, are you still happy? What do you think."

1935, King Vidor, United States
1st Viewing, DVD

The Wedding Night is a wonderful film. One that sets itself apart from both its period and its genre. Directed by the always expressive King Vidor, The Wedding Night never relies on sentiment or melodrama and the result is a film that is beautifully and emotionally realized. The underlying theme is the contrast of lifestyles and this is expressed both in nationality (American and European) as well as environment (city living and country living). Gary Cooper is not at his best as the lead, but he doesn’t have to be. Vidor’s direction and thematic texture and characterization really drive the force of the film. I had never seen Anna Sten before, but she is wonderful as the daughter of a Polish farmer whom Cooper falls in love with. It is said that Cooper did not get along with Sten on the set, but it never shows on screen as they have great chemistry together. Unfortunately Sten never made another film at MGM and in fact made very few films afterwards. Shot with glorious deep-focus cinematography by the great Gregg Toland, The Wedding Night handles its complicated relationships with honesty and appreciation. In the end the film becomes a tragic one without condensation or even closure. The final shot is beautifully lyrical. I would consider The Wedding Night one of King Vidor’s best films!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

June 17th Log

1941, Howard Hawks, United States

Repeat Viewing, DVD

A Billy Wilder screenplay starring Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper under the direction of Howard Hawks, cinematography of Gregg Toland, costume design of Edith Head… how can you possibly go wrong!! Ball of Fire delivers in every aspect. Hawks was a master of narrative rhythm and here it beautifully flows alongside the satirical bite of Wilder’s witty script. The cast is exceptional all around, but Cooper and Stanwyck are given the studio star treatment. Stanwyck especially delivers right from her star entrance (from behind a curtain of a nightclub). Hawks was also a great master of multiple genres and with this film he gives the screwball comedy a lighter and sexier tone. The film underlying presence is that of a battle between intellectual and physical impulses, or the mind and the body. Beautifully shot under the stunning deep focus cinematography by Toland, Ball of Fire takes on an adult reimagining of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Not the best film from Howard Hawks of Billy Wilder, but highly a enjoyable ride and an unforgettably classic performance from Stanwyck.

1956, Yasujiro Ozu, Japan
Repeat Viewing, DVD

Following a short hiatus, Early Spring is the first film Ozu made after his acclaimed 1953 Tokyo Story. Here Ozu is mostly examining the life of one man, and his job and marriage. Different from traditional Ozu, the man is a working class man (recalling his characteristically complex Kihachi films during Ozu's silent era). Above all Ozu sympathetically observes the value of life and this working man's search for meaning. Early Spring certainly rates among his most expression social statements of the Japanese work life and the focus seems to be on the younger generation of Japanese society. A generation of rebelliousness and transition into a more Westernized Japanese world. Maybe not among his very greatest masterworks, Early Spring remains a deeply detailed film and among Ozu's emotionally darkest work.

>>> More on Record of Early Spring @ A2P Cinema's Yasujiro Ozu website HERE

>>> The opening moments from Early Spring:

Saturday, June 16, 2007

June 16th Log

2006, Eric Steel, United States
1st Viewing, DVD

Interesting if not disturbing concept for a film The Bridge certainly has moments that stick with you. However, when it is over you wonder at what expense. The director does not exploit the subject but he doesn’t leave anything insightful either. The film left me with little desire to ever want to watch it again…

2006, Shawn Levy, United States
1st Viewing, Summer Under the Stars

For mindless family entertainment, Night at the Museum succeeds. Seeing this as a “summer night under the stars” was a fitting atmosphere to make the whole film more enjoyable. There are plenty of problems with the film, but it has some laughs and entertainment value for adults and especially for kids.

1960, Alfred Hitchcock, United States
Repeat Viewing, Encore

Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film, Psycho, is without question a landmark in American cinema history. Due to Hitchcock's status and popularity as a director at the time, he was able to break all the rules of the Hollywood standards; and he didn't hesitate to as Psycho is a violent film of murder, transvestitism, insanity, and paranoia. Really there are endless examinations that can be made for this film. Hitchcock rates among the very greatest masters of cinema, and Psycho is yet another display in his technique and filmmaking genius. Among many things, Hitchcock mastered a deception with the audience, and Psycho perfectly captures that. Perhaps not as shocking, the film's influences and classic "shower scene" does remain as powerful today. Psycho also changed the way Hollywood made films, and it's impact still shows in films of all genres. One of the great strengths of Psycho is that it is also a collaborated effort with artists at the height of their talents. Besides Hitchcock, Psycho features some extraordinary work from two legends: Saul Bass (who's title design work sets the visual and emotional mood), and of course Bernard Herrmann, who completely stringed instrument score rates among the very greatest in the history of film. Though I don't consider Psycho to be Hitchcock's best film, I certainly think it's his most important and influential.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

June 14th Log

1931, Leo McCarey, United States
1st Viewing, DVD

Though often forgotten among the great filmmakers of Hollywood Studio era, Leo McCarey stands as one of the very best. McCarey was born in Los Angeles and pursued many different occupations growing up (most notably law school, boxing, and coal mining- all of which play a small role in his work). However in 1919 he was introduced to Universal Studios director Tod Browning who hired him as an assistant. In 1921 he was given a chance to direct his first feature (Society Secrets), which was a disappointment. In 1923 McCarey received a big break to work for Hal Roach Studios. Here he wrote and directed short gag films. McCarey was so successful at this that he eventually became Vice President and head supervisor of the studios short films. It is also during this period where he paired Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy who would go on to become one of the most memorable comedic duos in the history of film. Roach was given the credit for the Laurel and Hardy pairing, but it was McCarey behind it. By 1929, McCarey was successful enough to move onto his own and from here he began writing, directing, and in some cases producing his own feature films. During the early years of sound, McCarey directed many of the most beloved comedian figures in film (including Harold Lloyd, WC Fields, George Burns, Eddie Cantor, among others). Indiscreet marked one of the early talkies from one of the great silent actresses of Hollywood Gloria Swanson. Though Swanson was well-regarded for her roles in drama, the 1930s marked an era of comedy and musicals for Swanson and she proves more then worthy here. In fact, Swanson is terrific and really gives the film its energy and charm. Indiscreet is essentially a screwball comedy with doses of melodrama along the way. McCarey certainly made better films but this is an enjoyable film mostly to watch Swanson shine- it is really a shame Hollywood abandoned many of the silent stars in the transition to talkies.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

June 13th Log

2007, Billy Ray, United States
1st Viewing, DVD

Breach opens with a press conference footage of John Ashcroft discussing the biggest security breach in United States history. This reminds us (and then film follows with a title card) that it is based on a true story and it reenacts the events leading up to Robert Hanssen’s conviction. The next moments of the film we see Hanssen praying and this becomes one of the films primary focuses. Hanssen’s religious beliefs are always at the center of the narrative, which is essentially a pretty standard genre film. Breach is at its best when leaving (as Hanssen’s character even says at one point in the film) “the why” out of it. Yet the religious aspects of the film seem to have answers for Hanssen’s actions as if his spiritual beliefs are the direct cause. He forms a bond with young FBI agent Eric O'Neill because they are both Catholic. Ultimately he trusts him and O'Neill understands that he can use it to get in with him, while at the same time O'Neill grows a compassion for him. Chris Cooper and Ryan Phillippe give strong performances and the direction is engaging from Billy Ray. This is Ray’s second feature following up the quietly subtle drama Shattered Glass. The strength of that film lied in the simplicity and Breach captures some of that. The problem here is that the screenplay is weighed down with motives instead of taking Hanssen’s own advice: “The 'why' doesn't mean a thing

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

June 12th Log

1943, Vincent Sherman, Unite States
1st Viewing, Turner Classic Movies

Warner Brothers first offered the script of The Hard Way (as they always did) to Bette Davis, who turned down the role. Afterwards Davis admitted she made mistake. The part went to the highly underrated Ida Lupino. Though underappreciated in her time, Lupino was a great actress. She was at her best when given a performance with passion and aggression, as she is here as Helen Chernen (an ambitious woman that will stop at nothing to see her little sister become a star, even if it hurts the lives of others around her). The film begins with Helen jumping into the river before flashing us back to how she got there. The film is said to be loosely based off of the mother-daughter relationship of Ginger Rogers, who’s mother was determined to make a star (the film only suggests this, though Ginger Rogers name is mentioned directly in the film). Here Lupino plays the sister of star-to-be (played by Joan Leslie). It’s an excellent performance by Lupino, who was truly a unique talent in Hollywood. Sadly this was the only film she ever received accolades for winning the New York Film Critics Best Actress of the Year award.

Monday, June 11, 2007

June 11th Log

1947, Raoul Walsh, United States
1st Viewing, DVD

Raoul Walsh is a well known Hollywood filmmaker who stands as a memorable icon for his tough-guy films (notably gangsters and westerns). Walsh started out as an actor and an assistant to D.W. Griffith during the silent era. While filming his 1928 film In Old Arizona, Walsh lost his eye. This ended his career as an actor and also lead to his well-known eye patch that he become legendary for wearing. Though never nominated for an Oscar, Walsh’s career as a director spans over 50 years and many of his films are now regarded as classics. Walsh was a master of narrative pacing and it is perhaps the critical factor that makes his films so wonderful and timeless even today. Walsh was also a master at masking genres. His 1947 film Pursued is no exception as it seems to be masked with genres of western, romance, and family melodrama. The film begins at the scene of the climax and is told as a flashback. What emerges is a purely psychological film that takes on layers of philosophical depths. Pursued is a film I imagine gaining value over repeat viewings. Through moody visuals and musical score (by the great Max Steiner), strong performances by leads Robert Mitchum and Teresa Wright, and expressive direction by Walsh Pursued is a rare noirish psychological western.

1958, Alfred Hitchcock, United States
Repeat Viewing, Encore

Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo is a brilliant, thrilling, masterpiece that misleads you every step of the way. It's a film that gets better with every viewing, as you can get a new perspective each time. I think Vertigo is Hitchcock's most artistic and ultimately among his best films (alongside Rear Window and Notorious). Sure Hitchcock has made some brilliant films, but I think none have the depth that Vertigo does. Vertigo is an examination of desire and it's about how what we often think of romantic love can truly be selfish emotion. I'm most fascinated with the films study of Scottie's (played to perfection by James Stewart) relationships to Madeleine and Midge, who is the opposite of Madeleine. Midge is real, Madeleine is not. Scottie is obsessed with Madeleine; her mysteries, her beauty, who wouldn't want her? While Midge is available, loving, honest, but plain and unexciting. She'sthe kind of women you don't look twice at. It's really interesting psychology about the male psyche. If nothing else, master composer Bernard Hermann and the film's final image are sure to move you. The visual aspects of the film are astonishing (the endless use of profile shots, the passionate green lighting effects glaring through the window, the Golden Gate Bridge, the final shot, etc, etc). Vertigo is an amazing masterpiece that's one of the most important films in American cinema history, by one of the most influential filmmakers.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

June 10th Log

1939, Raoul Walsh, United States
Repeat Viewing, DVD

Continuing the month of Raoul Walsh films with what is probably my favorite The Roaring Twenties, a film that is masterfully crafted and well executed in all aspects of filmmaking. Walsh's style and direction is wonderful in capturing the feel, look, and atmosphere of both the American time period, and of the gangster film. Through it's images and structure (whichfeatures several news-reel footage throughout) The Roaring Twenties becomes a film of reflection. Also, the film opensin World War I, and later compares the war with the life of a bootlegger gangster during prohibition. Walsh's fine crafted direction and narrative skill perfectly blend with a strong script and an outstanding leading performance from the incomparable James Cagney. Cagney was the key figure ofthe gangster genre of the 1930s, and this would be his final film within the genre until 1949's White Heat (also directedby Walsh). Here Cagney is playing a heroic gangster, as it's one the audience sympathizes with and cares for. Humphrey Bogart is also excellent in an early supporting role as Cagney's selfish double-crossing partner. Of course two years after this film, Bogart became a leading star with the release of the noir classic, The Maltese Falcon. The Roaring Twenties is such a well made film. It builds and absorbs fromthe opening moments in the trenches to the thrilling and tragic finale. The final tracking shot on the stairs is beautiful and perfectly captures the end of an era, the end of the American gangster film, and the arrival of the darker atmospheric film noir. "He used to be a big shot."

Saturday, June 9, 2007

June 9th Log

1976, Elaine May, United States

1st Viewing, DVD

Mikey and Nicky is a film that was discarded by Paramount Studios in 1976 because they deemed it uncommercial. After two successful comedies this marked the third of four films Elaine May directed. Starring John Cassavetes and Peter Faulk the film certainly had a style and presence of being a Cassavetes film (documentary cinematography, seemingly improvisational dialogue, atmospheric locations). Essentially Mikey and Nicky gives a feminine sensibility to the Cassavetes film. May presents the characters with a sense of tenderness in that they are misbehaved, stubborn little children living in an adult world. May also captures this by making it darkly comical underneath the surface of what is truly an angry and tragic relationship between two men. The film is structured with a narrative of little plot, yet there is a deeply profound and almost poetic depth to the two characters and their adult friendship amongst the harsh realities of the real world. Ultimately the film is a brutally tragic and sad film that becomes a reflection of the two characters long friendship from childhood.

2006, Anthony and Joe Russo, United States
1st Viewing, HBO

I did not like this one bit. The funniest line was a reference to Raging Bull and the best moment was a clip from Roman Holiday, but all it did was increase my longing to be watching one of those films.

Friday, June 8, 2007

June 8th Log

1932, Yasujiro Ozu, Japan
1st Viewing, DVD

I FINALLY got a chance to see this wonderful film!!! I Was Born, But… is often cited among master Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu’s most beloved works (be it of pre or post WW11). It’s a lovely film. One that begins light-hearted and subtly grows darker as it progresses. It’s a witty comedy, but the film also emerges as an insightful and transcendent tragedy in its incredibly in-depth awareness of social and human behaviors. As in most of Ozu’s silents, the visual style is far more expressive then that of his post-war work. I Was Born, But… perfectly defines the perspective of the characters, notably the two young boys. Ozu always got great performances from child actors and this film is essentially expressed through the two boys. In the opening scene, we see the boys watching their father as a great hero helping a car get out of a mud pit. As the film gradually moves forward their perspective changes such as when they see their father acting like a jokester in some old home movies. Here the film delves darker as the children’s innocence become a overwhelming awareness of social and adult contradictions. I Was Born, But… marked one of Ozu’s earliest successes as a filmmaker, both financially and critically, as the film was a box office success and also won the Kinema Jumpo poll as best Japanese film of the year. Ozu himself loosely remade the film with the more-lighthearted and inferior (though still quite good) 1959 Technicolor film Good Morning (Ohayo).

>>> More on Record of a I Was Born, But... @ A2P Cinema's Yasujiro Ozu website HERE

>>> Here is a clip from I Was Born, But...:

Thursday, June 7, 2007

June 7th Log

1947, Cecil B. DeMille, United States
1st Viewing, DVD

A talent cast and awhole lot of Cecil B DeMille showmanship highlight this flawed but fun film. If you go in expecting something serious, or politically correct, or even historically accurate you are likely to be disappointed. If you are expecting to see another DeMille extravagant epic, you’ll likely have some fun watching this. The cast is a great one (Gary Cooper, Paulette Goddard, Boris Karloff, Howard Da Silva, Ward Bond, among others) but their performances are far from standout, as like in just about everything involving DeMille the cast completely overacts. As in DeMille fashion the film moves from one extravagant set design to another before leading us towards a showdown finale between Capt. Christopher Holden (Cooper) and Martin Garth (Da Silva), a gun trader organizing an Indian uprising against the settlers for his own profit. Unconquered is not to be taken real seriously. It’s entertaining showmanship from the master showman. Even as pure entertainment the film is flawed and certainly not one of DeMille’s most memorable works, but as overblown campy fun Unconquered has its qualities (most notably being the glorious Technicolor picture).

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

June 6th Log

2007, Sarah Polley, Canada
1st Viewing, Theater

Away From Her is (to date) the best 2007 release I have seen! Written and directed by actress Sarah Polley in her debut, who adapted the film from a short story by Alice Munro (“The Bear Came Over the Mountain”), Away From Her is a heartrending film of memory, and of marriage. The film is beautifully structured like a poem, drifting in a non-linear journey of the past and present. The film opens with a series of shots that are poignantly rendered, as we subtly observe three different perspectives of a couple cross-country skiing (together, on separate paths, and then together again). Polley effectively plays with time, skillfully heightening the films treatment of memory- much in a similar style of the films co-producer Atom Egoyan (who directed Polley in his 1997 masterpiece The Sweet Hereafter). Only 28 years old, Polley shows the grace and wisdom of a filmmaker far ahead of her age in the way she finds the perfect little details of a 44-year old marriage. A love that after 44-years has grown stronger through memory. So what happens when Fiona (played by Julie Christie in a career-defining performance) suffers Alzheimer's disease? Can their love persevere? When Fiona tells her husband Grant that she “is beginning to disappear”, she agrees to be submitted to Meadowlake Nursing Home, a place that seems destined to erase memories of the past, even a 44-year marriage. By Meadowlakes policy (which as a nurse states is probably more convenient for the staff), Grant must be away from Fiona for 30 days. The films title seems to reflect both husband and wife, as they are taken away (he from her, and her from herself) from the loss of shared memory. Carrying the emotional weight of the film without an ounce of sentiment is the incredible performance from the always reliable Julie Christie. As Fiona, Christie is heart-wrenching, but in a way that is perfectly subtle and underplayed. Away From Her is an incredibly moving film. It is heartbreakingly sad, but ultimately hopeful in its graceful observation of acceptance, and of selfless love.

2007, Danny and Oxide Pang, United States / Canada
1st Viewing, DVD

The Messengers begins with the typical horror scene before flashing to present day at the “haunted house”. The cliches continue throughout the entire film, including the cheap tactics the film uses for scares (editing tricks, and bursts of loud sounds). The film is directed by the Pang brothers, who hit international success with their Hong Kong horror hit The Eye (which is currently being remade in Hollywood). The Messengers is the first English-language release from the Pang brothers and the film is co-produced by Sam Raimi. With The Eye the Pang brothers were able to at least make their gimmicky style (flash editing, loud burst of sounds) a little bit absorbing and suspenseful. Here, any suspense is completely missing and the soap-opera family subplot is even less interesting. On the positive side, the film did look good in terms of set designs and use of colors.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

June 5th Log

1941, Raoul Walsh, United States
Repeat Viewing, Turner Classic Movies

High Sierra is a film most remembered as being the film that turned Humphrey Bogart into a star. Though he played key supporting roles in some significant films (including They Drive By Night, The Roaring Twenties, Dark Victory, Angels With Dirty Faces, The Petrified Forest), it was his role as Roy “Mad Dog” Earle in High Sierra that shaped his famous persona and ultimately made him one of Hollywood’s most beloved movie stars. In High Sierra Bogart earned second billing, but he would be top billing on every film that followed, including his definitive role in the landmark film The Maltese Falcon, which was released later the same year. Top billing on High Sierra went to Ida Lupino, who had a memorable performance in her previous film They Drive By Night (which also starred Bogart and was directed by Raoul Walsh). As Roy “Mad Dog” Earle, Bogart plays a role that would embody himself as an actor, playing the sympathetic anti-hero. His chemistry with Lupino really makes this film. Really Lupino’s performance can not be overlooked as the good bad girl. Walsh uses just the right lightning to express her face and heighten the performance. The film has its flaws (mostly with the subplots, such as the farm family Earle takes care of), but it is worth watching to see the early development of Bogart’s stardom, and is really most effective when Lupino is onscreen. The film is uneven but does reach thrilling lengths in the climax- a desperate chase into the high sierras. The ending is a memorable as a noir tragedy. Certainly not the best film from Walsh, Bogart, Lupino, or even screenwriter John Huston, but High Sierra is well worth watching as a significant early 1940s Hollywood film.

1940, Raoul Walsh, United States
Repeat Viewing, Turner Classic Movies

They Drive By Night is a film that essentially shifts itself from one film to another. The film is held together by the rhythmic multi-genre filmmaking of director Raoul Walsh. They Drive by Night opens as a fast-paced drama involving a trucker looking to build up his business to avoid the exploits of his boss. The shift comes in the presence of Ida Lupino, as it turns into her on trial for killing her husband. The two halves are mostly connected in the treatment of the two main characters: the trucker (excellently played by George Raft), and the ambitious and sensual wife who is driven to insanity at the thought of killing her husband. Lupino overacts a bit here (particularly in the courtroom scene), but it is a marvelous performance to witness. As the film progresses she continuously takes it over more and more until she steals the show. They Live By Night is a strange film and in the way it shifts genres it can only be considered a quintessential Raoul Walsh picture. Certainly not perfect, but a recommended classic.

Monday, June 4, 2007

June 4th Log

1932, Wesley Ruggles, United States
Repeat Viewing, DVD

Today, No Man of Her Own can be seen as a landmark film as it stands the only on-screen collaboration famous married couple Carole Lombard and Clark Gable ever made together. Of course at the time the film was made, Lombard and Gable were not romantically linked (that would not come until they met each other again several years later). Though the pairing is strictly business here, their on-screen chemistry is wonderful. Together they sparkle in this romantic comedy/drama about card cheat who avoids a police detective by leaving hiding out, where he meets a librarian he ends up marrying on a flip of a coin. The dialogue is sharp and the film has sexy pre-code touch that makes it appealing. Above all this film is all about its star chemistry and Lombard and Gable deliver. The fact that they later became one of the most famous Hollywood married couples only makes this film more of a treasure to cherish. For me, its all about Lombard, who I absolutely adore. No Man of Her Own was early in her stardom but she is an absolute joy to watch here, as it captures both her excellent comedic timing, and her sexy and classy sophistication. I love the way the film ends: a fade out in the middle of Gable lying to his wife about his trip, while she (aware of his lies) just looks at him with a loving smile. No Man of Her Own is indeed a delightful little film.

1949, Raoul Walsh, United States
Repeat Viewing, DVD

This month I plan of watching and rewatching the films of Raoul Walsh. I started things off with on his most memorable classics: White Heat. The gangster film faded from American cinema after the1930s, but Raoul Walsh (the director of perhaps the last great gangster film of the 30s, The Roaring Twenties) unforgettably resurrected the genre with the 1949 release of White Heat. Walsh reunites with The Roaring Twenties star, James Cagney, a rare and incomparable icon actor who defined the gangster era. Cagney was a versatile actor (who excelled in musicals), but it is his roles as a gangster that are most quintessential. Here Cagney (as Cody Jarrett) is presented as a brutal, psychotic killer who trusts no one (except his mother) and would kill without thought. However, through Cagney's energetic performance and Walsh's graceful filmmaking, there is a sympathetic aspect to Cody, and the audience is engaged and understanding with him. Also, though it's Cagney's film all the way Virginia Mayo as Cody's selfish and sleazy girlfriend, and Edmond O'Brien as the undercover cop who gets Cody to trust him, each give terrific supporting performances. Walsh's crafty and gripping directing builds both visual atmosphere and emotional tension as we see both the criminals and police point of view. The ending is brilliant as Cody's uncontrollable rage results in his doomed demise as his world (literally) explodes just as he shouts the eerie and ultimately classic line ("Top of the world, ma!"). White Heat belongs mention amongst the finest film of the genre. It's a film that holds it's own unforgettable place in American film history.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

June 2nd Log

2006, Christiane Cegavske, United States

1st Viewing, DVD

Blood Tea and Red String is a wonderful film. It is a stop-motion animation film made without dialogue and a running time of only 71 minutes. Each minute is a treat as we are taken into a fairy tale world of imaginative creation. This world was created by filmmaker Christiane Cegavske. She worked on the film for 12 years, and her commitment and personal expression is evident in the beauty of this film. The lack of dialogue gives the a dream-like feeling, and the music and sounds heighten what is a truly surreal experience. The story is simple as well are taken to a world of mice and the doll they fight for. The white “upper class” mice order the creatures who live under the oak tree to create the doll. After doing so, they fall in love with the doll and a fight between the two begin. The film takes us on a magical journey through its fantasy world with a vision that recalls Alice and Wonderland or perhaps David Lynch. The film opens and closes with a pair of marvelous sequences that are both seemingly separate forms of expression for the film. Beautifully detailed, Blood Tea and Red String is a great achievement of animation filmmaking.

2005, Tim Burton, United States / United Kingdom
Repeat Viewing, HBO

To me Tim Burton's reimagination of Roald Dahl's classic novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a far more imaginative and ultimately better film then the beloved 1971 original. This is really an entirely new film that is heighten by a greater sense of wonder, visual imagination, tongue-in-cheek humor, and overall less psychedelic campiness. Sure the original film had much to admire, but it lacks the sheer enchantment and wonder of Burton's vision and imagery. Burton is an artist who's films are strengthened through visual details and isolated atmosphere which blends humor, fantasy, and nightmares. The set designs (like many Burton films) recall that of German Expressionism of the silent era. Also adding to this is the performance of Johnny Depp who's Willy Wonka shares more in common with a silent film actor (like Lon Cheney for instance) then with Gene Wilder. He truly is brilliant in every way here. As are the supporting roles by the children, their parents, Christopher Lee (who's perfectly casted), and Deep Roy, who the film wises duplicates rather then creating CGI Oompa Loompas. One of the big changes in this film is the additional of Wonka's background. Burton presents a greater sense of his childhood and this perfectly works within the emotion and themes of the film, because ultimately Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a story of childhood and most notably of parenthood. Not to go without mentioning is the musical score of Danny Elfman. Not only does Elfman provide some inventive musical numbers, but it is the musical score of this film that is most brilliant. Elfman has mastered his work with Burton and in many ways is another character of his films, and this should be placed as another great one. It really does add another dimension to the depth and imagination of the film. Charlie and the Chocolate Factorymay not be in the class of his finest masterpieces (Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice) but it certainly recalls the sense of beauty and wonder that made those films so special. Maybe I just love Tim Burton too much, but to me, this film is an absolute joy!!

Friday, June 1, 2007

June 1st Log

1946, Alfred Hitchcock, United States
Repeat Viewing, Encore

Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious manages to be a truly absorbing, and exciting masterpiece, despite absolutely no action sequence. This is created by Hitchcock's trademark touches, and masterful ability of turning the film into a puzzle. Piece bypiece we observe the film come together before leading up to the brilliant and very clever climax (which I will not say, expect that the final shot is pure perfection. It needs to be experienced to be appreciated!). Tying the film's emotional core together is the wonderfully romantic love story of Alicia, and Devlin. It's a visually gorgeous film. The black and white cinematography and set designs (particularly the checker-board tile floor, used as a metaphor for the chess game going on in the house) are breathtaking. And of course, the magical screen presence of the beautiful Ingrid Bergman, who is easily among my favorites of all-time. Claude Rains and Cary Grant are also exceptional as usual. There are many wonderful moments and techniques that are typical of Hitchcock's influence and greatness. Amazingly, all the suspense is generated through two simple and small objects (a key, and wine bottles). There's a remarkable shot in which the cameradrops from the ceiling of a ball room to the hands of Bergman, where she is holding a tiny key. Deeply simplistic yet very suspensful. Incredible!! As is the love triangle between Bergman, Grant and Rains. Basically, Everything about the film is perfect! Notorious is truly a brilliant piece of filmmaking, and to me, one of Hitchcock's three greatest accomplishments (along with Vertigo and Rear Window).

1947, Yasujiro Ozu, Japan
Repeat Viewing, DVD

Record of a Tenement Gentleman is Ozu's first post-war film (made five years after his previous film There Was a Father). Overall it is a simple, light-hearted comedy yet is also a touching, personal, bittersweet and even distanced film. Distanced in the sense that Ozu pushes away the any forced manipulation of emotions through his simplistic style. The story of an abandoned boy in postwar Japan who grows a relationship with a cynical middle-aged woman could have easily been one of forced emotional impact. Yet through Ozu, it is restrained and ultimately more poetic and effective. Ultimately the film becomes a moving and hopeful film of the human condition against the tragic backdrop of war. Despite the ruins of a postwar Japan, the film leaves a sense of hope for humanity and for recovery (both in relationship of the family and of Japan). Not a masterpiece, but an excellent film in the very capable hands of Ozu.

>>> More on Record of a Tenement Gentleman @ A2P Cinema's Yasujiro Ozu website HERE

>>> Here is a clip from Record of a Tenement Gentleman:

A2P Cinema June Feature Film

Eric Rohmer . 1970 . France

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