Monday, February 11, 2013

Top 10 11/02/2013

Timecrimes: You're caught in a time loop. Can you think fast enough to cope with it (let alone correct mistakes you've probably already made)? Would you have the discipline to calmly wait until everything caught up and you rejoined yourself when the anxiety about that not happening would be so overpowering? This drags you into some brain hurting whirlpools of of the mind and barely a breath's worth of respite to gather your thoughts (there's a reason for that, of course ;)  Being remade in American. As with Rec, see it in the original Spanish first and only and you'll do ok.  This would have been a SHADOWS selection. for sure.

Eraserhead: Best movie ever.

 Shadow of a Doubt: Hitch in Norman Rockwell country. Joseph Cotton's urbane Uncle Charlie grows increasingly sinister as his namesake niece begins to see through the smoothness and finds darkness. I can forgive the abrupt ending for the real gaze at a teenager's rising disenchantment at the centre of the film. But growing up has seldom been so unsettlingly stylish.

Queimada/Burn: Genuinely Marxist film of a slave revolt in the Carribean might have been very wrong but manages to stay focussed, engaging and powerful all the way through. Brando in his second heyday reigns in the method to offer Sir William Walker, a pragmatic hammer for hire with aristocratic reserve and clear intelligence. Against him, Jose Delores (Evaristo Marquez) is fierce but also aware of the lessons Walker's initial tutelage has left him. Fresh from The Battle of Algiers Gillo Pontecorvo once again proves that committed political cinema doesn't have to be dry. No chance of that anyway when you have Morricone's most glorious film score to that point in time.

Seconds: Second-chance fable with a Twilight Zone feel is part of the roll John Frankenheimer found himself on when he jumped ship from tv to the big screen. Contemporary insiders and current audiences will find a spooky harmonic ringing through as Rock Hudson's double life as a public hunky leading man and private gay man is given a veiled airing. Star lensman James Wong Howe throws everything he has at the screen including a stunning fisheye opening sequence and unsettling almost Lynchian pov tracking shot through a train station. Hard to locate a copy of this so jump on it if you see it second hand or auctioned.

Spirit of the Beehive: Painterly look is so gorgeous it's easy to miss the oceanic depth of this tale of growing up and witnessing reality uncloak itself in the warmth of childhood's fancy. The five year old Ana Torrent compels the viewer. Her dialogue is sparse but her physical acting is strong and emotive. She is our centre as we look at a family disturbingly drifting from each other as the unackowledged spectre of Franco floats above every scene. When the effect of the latter manifests is it devastating. Manages to be about childhood without ever being sentimental.

Diary: Screen grief never felt so authentic because it never felt so personal. And yet this story is told as a kind of grimy fantasy. At one point the cripplingly obsessed Winnie seems to shrink as a small black cloud oozes with slow certain threat into her living room. And once we see this gruelling portrait of pain the film starts again with a new title sequence and we learn what appears to be the real story. Made by the wonderful Thai/Hong Kong Pang brothers who have enthralled their audiences with genre bending pieces like The Eye and Ab-Normal Beauty, Diary feels like an Asian horror but progresses to the same territory as Bergman or Kieslowsky without straying from its own aesthetic. Imagine Fatal Attraction as remade by David Cronenberg and without the Hollywood ending.

Matador: Almodovar's melodramas and campy comedies have always diverted me but when I saw this hymn of hate for the Franco legacy I rewrote my impression of him completely. This multi-stranded thriller of guilt and a kind of maniacal necrophilia transcends the tone that those words would suggest and springs into it's own film and further consolidated Almodovar's authorial reputation at this early stage without affecting his comedies or later melodramas. Seldom has the facade of social respectability felt so nauseatingly and contempuously false.

Come and See: With about ten percent of the violence of Saving Private Ryan this film does many times more than the Spielberg film could hope to by keeping the same distance from the action as we might be watching it really happen remotely. Alexsey Kravchenko as Florya is still a teenager at the end of the film but his experiences have aged him to what looks like over a hundred. The final showdown between him and a picture of Hitler is unlike anything you've seen in a war movie before or since. Terrifying and mesmerising. My favourite war film. Ever.

Arsenic and Old Lace: Bloody funny and almost too fast and feverish even for a black comedy this is best enjoyed going in calm as it takes a few steps too many to heat up but when it does it takes the credit sequence to stop it. A great ensemble cast conducted with a hand a little too close to chaos this wartime Halloween comedy from Frank Capra won't let even Cary Grant's attempt to cute it up get in his way as he plunges into a corridor between reality and image and lets every element he can find collide.

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