Posted by davidkalat on August 4, 2012
A boilingly hot summer day, a crush of commuters, a moment of carelessness. With these universal ingredients, Akira Kurosawa set up a film that would mix the grim obsessions of film noir with a documentarian’s observation of postwar Japanese life. Talk about universal–Stray Dog is a mashup of pulp pop and reportage, of true crime and intimate drama, of buddy cop movies and art house cinema, of East and West. There isn’t much a movie can do that Stray Dog doesn’t put on its agenda.
That being said, the international critical acclaim that greeted this film requires some dissection, because there’s something really weird going on here. Stray Dog was never a barn-burning commercial splash, and it wasn’t even distributed in the US until 1963 (almost 15 years after it was made) but it was an award-winning and highly regarded art house release that contributed substantially to Akira Kurosawa’s growing renown, and there’s something screwy about that.
Posted by davidkalat on June 16, 2012
“Are you now, or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”
Before you answer, please understand: this is not a Yes or No question.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on May 22, 2012
The post-WWII economic expansion exploded in 1950, as the GI Bill’s low mortgage rates stoked a housing boom and pent-up consumer demand propped up retail. Success was there for the taking, but not for all. Two early 50s films that are hitting home video in impressive transfers, Joseph Losey’s The Lawless (1950, on DVD 5/29 from Olive Films) and Fritz Lang’s The Big Heat (1953, now out on Blu-Ray from Twilight Time), documented some of the anxieties caused by this enormous upheaval in American life, what would be the start of the greatest stretch of economic growth in U.S. history. More money meant more crime, and The Big Heat is a nightmare rendering of the American Dream, as good cop Glenn Ford loses his nuclear family and just goes nuclear. The Lawless is an earnest morality play about the plight of migrant fruit pickers in Southern California, doing the work Americans left for office gigs (by 1956 a majority of U.S. workers held white rather than blue collar jobs).
Posted by keelsetter on August 28, 2011
“This film has cross-over appeal that connects with progressive hippies and Tea Party members alike. It’s about government raids on local and organic farmers.” I’d had a long working relationship with the distributor who was telling me this over the phone, but in the past Jessica had been a broker for classics of the silent era as well as representing some of the biggest names in both the realm of foreign and contemporary arthouse movies. This was a very different and far cry from Dersu Uzala. It was a debut low-budget documentary called Farmageddon: The Unseen War on American Family Farms. READ MORE
Posted by keelsetter on July 17, 2011
A few weeks ago the Consulate-General of Japan at Denver sent me a stack of titles by Yasuzo Masumura (1924 – 1986), a director largely unknown to American audiences despite a prodigious body of work and plaudits by film critics who have placed him within the same pantheon as Kenji Mizoguchi (with whom Masumura worked with as an assistant director), Yasujiro Ozu, and Akira Kurosawa. Masumura also had an influence on Nagisa Ôshima and the Japanese New Wave. Despite Masumura having about 60 films to his credit, only a half-dozen of those can readily be found on Region 1 DVD’s here in the U.S. READ MORE
Posted by keelsetter on June 5, 2011
I’m in the process of assembling a spreadsheet of films that I’d like to bring to my fall calendar program. As an exhibitor, I wish I could give all (or, at least, most or many) of these films a home. But as the market place keeps shrinking the theatrical windows, and as V.O.D. becomes more rampant, the harsh reality is that a balance has to be struck between viable money-makers and smaller niche titles that are very interesting and compelling but lack high-profile visibility, this despite being top-shelf items. In the former category are titles such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. In the latter category are movies like Marwencol or Bill Cunningham New York. I never need to see advance screeners for films in the former category as, for the most part, it’s pretty obvious what the big hitters are. In the latter category, however, it’s essential to watch the preview screeners sent to me by distributors because I really need to know if the material stands a chance of connecting with the audience in our area despite a low profile. Or, at very least, whether it resonates so strongly with me that I’m willing to champion it personally in the hopes that I might, despite long odds, find it an audience. Here’s what I’ve got queued up for the coming week. READ MORE
Posted by keelsetter on April 10, 2011
In my last post I wrapped up my interview with Alex Cox by talking a bit about John Carpenter’s They Live (1988). Alex said: “They Live holds up for the first 45 minutes, and then there’s this long wrestling match between Roddy Piper and Keith David, and it never recovers. But those first 45 minutes are amazing. Pretty much the only good science fiction film I’ve seen post 2001: A Space Odyssey.” When I heard that, I thought for sure there would be a long tussle of words in the comment section to rival what John Carpenter claimed was “the longest fight scene in movie history.” To my surprise, only two people chimed in, both in support of the film in general. Where were the cries of bloody murder from the fans of THX 1138, Brazil, Videodrome, RoboCop, A Clockwork Orange, Tetsuo, Inception, Alien, and so on? There are plenty of bones to fight over here, but I’ll stick to They Live for the purpose of this post. As to the long fight scene, I’ve gotten into my own fights with people who dismiss it as ridiculous. Agreeing to some extent with Alex Cox is author and music journalist Greil Marcus who says of They Live that it is “a fabulous movie (except for the endless fight behind the building).” Again, I strongly disagree. READ MORE
Posted by keelsetter on January 30, 2011
Last week I saw 20 films in five days at Sundance. With just over 200 films listed in the index, that means I barely covered 10% of the slate. Documentaries are a Sundance forté, so it’s not surprising that almost half of the films I screened fall into this category. Similarly, as most docs these days never get transferred to film that accounts for why about half of all my screenings were digital projections. Happily, despite many rumblings by industry pundits regarding the eminent death of 35mm film, most of the narrative features were still on celluloid. Huzzah! READ MORE
Posted by davidkalat on November 27, 2010
12 ANGRY MEN is a dangerous movie. It’s one of the worst threats to my productivity of any movie ever made—if I’m unlucky enough to come across it while channel surfing, I’m stuck. I won’t be going anywhere until it’s over. And once, the movie sucked me in pretty much literally, until I found myself living inside it, with the fate of an actual human being in the balance.
Posted by keelsetter on July 18, 2010
I rarely attend films on opening night, but made an exception for Christopher Nolan’s Inception, knowing that it would be one of those films, like The Usual Suspects, whose ending can be telegraphed in two or three words by anyone who’d seen the film before me. Among other things, Inception is about dreams, dreams within dreams, lucid dreaming and shared dreams – which is ripe terrain for cinema since films themselves reveal the collective unconsciousness of the nations that burp them into existence. I followed up Inception with Sullivan’s Travels, and found it an appropriate choice. After all, Preston Sturges’ 1941 classic is, like the dreamer who knows he’s dreaming, very much self-aware. It’s a film about films that knows it’s a film. The more precise and academic term that Bruce Kawin, my Film History professor would use for this is “self-reflexive.” READ MORE
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