Wednesday, August 1, 2012

INDEX: Got Them End of July Blues…

July is over, and it’s time to huff some scorpion and round up what’s being watched.
While a high proportion of films were screened as a result of the aftermath of the Best Films Alfred Hitchcock Never Made blogathon, and several on-line-only films were watched as part of “crossing off the list,” the rest were almost all seen via our good friends at the New York Public Library.
Most of the “classic” movies watched, for instance, were “holds” that all seemed to arrive at the same time. Not that I’m complaining….
Reviews and INDEX below—

For some reason, there were a few Westerns (and sort-of Westerns) in this batch of reviews…And a lot of movies in Spanish—or about Spaniards—or filmed in Spain. What does it all mean?
Well, since it looks like I’m about to be laid off from my gig as a propagandist for the military-industrial complex—after 12 years! Sigh…—I will have more time to ponder the Big Questions surrounding the Cinema of Weirdness!

El Rey de la Montana (The King of the Hill) (2007; Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego) is an unnerving addition to the “Savage Cinema” library, more so because what sort of freaky subtext is there when a flick like this comes out of a country (Spain) still shaking off its fascist past? Is this “just” a thriller? There’s plenty of uncomfortable food for thought in this movie.
For no apparent reason, a lost traveler (and soon some other doomed companions) is being stalked by persons or persons unknown across an isolated, craggy, mountainous forest. The hunter or hunters has dogs and a high-powered rifle, and are quite methodical and sadistic—and fearless: they shoot at cops and civilians alike.
The beginning is slow, but very moody, but quickly tightens the screws, and the second act is unbelievably tense, suspenseful and upsetting. The third act switches gears, and you discover who the hunters and why they’re doing it—and it’s for the creepiest reason of all.

Sure, this is The Most Dangerous Game all over again—but that film should stop being treated as sui generis, and be considered the father of a genre that it is.
El Rey de la Montana also brings to mind The Hunger Games: all that forest running and killing—as well as other things that I can’t reveal…
But the Spanish film is really akin to another “man being chased” film, Joseph Losey’s Figures in a Landscape, because it was filmed in practically the same area (with similar sweeping helicopter POV shots), but it also has a similar mystery through it: why is this happening?

Director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego also directed Apollo 18 (2011), a flick that got scathing reviews, but that I thought was great (and must really be included if I ever get around to doing a Part 2 of my “Bad Movies I Love” [URL TK]), and I think he’s someone to watch out for; it’s exciting to have a new director’s career to follow.

Man of the West (1958; Anthony Mann) starts off kind of lame, clunky and goofy—but it’s worth sitting through for the bucket of bleak and nasty awesome afterwards. Synopsis HERE.
The flick really picks up once Lee J. Cobb’s monstrous Dock Tobin shows up; but it’s Julie London’s character that has the greatest arc (and is the audience’s surrogate into seeing how rotten Dock’s gang is as she’s tortured, then raped).
Man of the West is a very mature Western—grown-up themes like responsibility, fidelity and lust show up—but it’s a movie that I really think could have used a rewrite or a script polish: there are great moments (especially between Gary Cooper and London, and Coop and his cousin who never left the gang), but unfocused place-holders in-between. According to Cult Movies author Danny Peary, this movie has a cult, but I’m just not part of it. I guess I’ll still hold to Winchester ’73 or The Tall T for my “off-beat,” adult Westerns from the 1950s.

Tepepa (1969; Giulio Petroni) is a tepid Zapata Western (that is, an agitprop Spaghetti Western) that is very derivative (not that that’s a bad thing) but with terrible pacing. Overall the flick is kind of a snooze.
Orson Welles (in bad makeup) plays a corrupt Mexican police colonel like a stoned Hank Quinlan, and is always fun, but the other actors don’t quite cut it—and director Petroni is very obviously “borrowing” from Sergio Leone and Damiano Damiani, but to no avail:
Something’s lacking in the action scenes. The flick’s heart is in the right place politically (¡Viva la Revolucion!), but the pacing is leaden, further burdened by an overly complicated screenplay with far too many flashbacks.
You can see the hand of super-left-wing screenwriter Franco Solinas in the mix, but it’s been diluted. Solinas also wrote the much better Burn!, The Battle of Algiers, A Bullet for the General and State of Siege, all faves of mine.
Tepepa watched HERE

Justified: Season Two (2011; created by Elmore Leonard & Graham Yost) Great dialog, but the “crime of the week” format—as well as the ex-wife soap-opera hijinks, and how every subplot is drawn out three episodes more than it needs to be—is wearing very thin. There are 13 episodes in this season, but I didn’t bother finishing with the last two. Walton Goggins is great, though.

“Ruin” (2012; short film; Wes Ball) is neat stuff; hardly substantive, but since director Ball has been given a multi-pic deal because of this short, it might be worth a look for at least historical value.
Like it said, it’s neat stuff, but whatever feature Ball creates from “Ruin” better show a little more depth. He should hire Patton Oswalt, the nerd’s nerd’s nerd, to give the flick a comedic spin—being a fanboy, Oswalt would probably up the gore factor, too! Not that this would ever happen…
Watch “Ruin” Here

The Battle of Chile, Part One: The Insurrection of the Bourgeoisie (1975; Patricio Guzman) is heartbreaking as we watch a concerted, clandestine effort to subvert Allende’s legitimate agendas in early-1970s pre-coup Chile.
This documentary shows vicious and ruthless class warfare from the top down, with Nixon/CIA-backed dirty tricks—and shit like this is happening right here, right now in these United States with all the Tea Party/Birther nonsense!
This movie terrified me (although I know a military coup d’etat won’t happen here: there haven’t been enough genuine socialistic reforms enacted to engender a right-wing/military tipping point). 

Chile and its terrible recent past is a bee in my bonnet lately—see review of Chile-based Tony Manero, for example—I guess I see a parallel between the two nations with the Right’s complete overreaction to Obama and his policies here, as well as what appears to be the increasingly huge gap between the haves and have-nots. None of this can lead to anything good
Y’know, I’m really just trying to train myself to recognize the signals that it’s time to go into exile before the bayonets get fixed…

The Red Shoes (1948; Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger) is obviously a beautiful, carefully crafted film, and deserves its reputation as a classic movie by and for fans of ballet.
But after all these years of reading detailed analyses, and hearing its high praises from the likes of Martin Scorsese and Francis Coppola, finally seeing it was somewhat anticlimactic—at least the first half of the film.
But the second half of the film, concentrating on ballet master Boris and his broken heart, is absolutely stunning; I was completely moved.
And personally, I think Victoria the dancer was stupid to not listen to Boris: he’s right; she’ll end up an unhappy housewife with a yelping brood to contend with, especially if her husband Julian the composer keeps her off the stage—like it looks like he’s going to.
The message I get from The Red Shoes is atypical: it says Stick with Art; creative endeavors are better than “love.”

THE ORDER IN WHICH FILMS WERE WATCHED in July 2012 (Hmmm, not too many comedies, romances or melodramas. I wonder what that means…)

(Unless otherwise indicated, the majority of these films are either reviewed above, or HERE)
(If films are points of information, what sort of graph would these cinematic choices reveal over the course of a month?)

Cool Hand Luke (1968)
A Dangerous Method (2011) reviewed HERE
Hollywood Boulevard (1976) reviewed HERE
Luther: Season One (2010)
Shivers (They Came From Within) (1975)
Fire & Ice (1983)
Grave Encounters (2011)
Abandon Ship (1957) reviewed HERE
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
Solaris (2002)
Louie: Season Two (2011)
Rampart (2011)
Reaper: Season One (2007; created by Michael Fazekas & Tara Butters) episodes 1-4 so far…
Savage Messiah (1972) reviewed HERE
“Improbable” The X-Files (2009; created, written & directed by Chris Carter) This episode and the episodes of Reaper screened will be included in a future essay on religion and the mysterious.
Tony Manero (2008) reviewed HERE
Man of the West (1958)
The Trouble With Harry (1955) reviewed HERE
Peeping Tom (1960) reviewed HERE
The Scarlet Empress (1934) reviewed HERE
“Ruin” (2012)
This Gun For Hire (1942) reviewed HERE
The Collector (1966) reviewed HERE
Tepepa (1969)
The Phantom Lady (1949) reviewed HERE
Justified: Season Two (2011)
El Rey de la Montana (The King of the Hill) (2007)
The Battle of Chile, Part One: The Insurrection of the Bourgeoisie (1975)
The Red Shoes (1948)
The Andromeda Strain (1971; Robert Wise) will have its review published on August 3, 2012, as part of the “My First Movie” blogathon, sponsored by the wonderful film blog Forgotten Classics of Yesteryear (see image below).


  1. Have you seen Anthony Mann's "The Man From Laramie?" It's nice and mean. And missed you at Film Forum's spaghetti western series. I caught a dozen of them. Most seen before, but not on the big screen. I did not see "Tepepa."

  2. SqD: Yeah, I missed that Spaghetti series at the FF; some of those flicks are like "Tepepa" and can be found on-line. Haven't seen "Man From Laramie," will keep an eye out. I strongly recommend Mann's "Men in War" with Robert Ryan and Aldo Ray; now THAT's nasty!