As we continue our quest to turn this sports blog into Ain't It Cool News, I give you another Guest Film Crit lecturer - our pal, Scagnetti.
There seems to be no middle ground on here, albeit a ground that’s well-tread with expansive, intelligent discourse. Appears we either ham up the art or pick the popcorn outta our teeth.
This stops NOW!
Sailor asked me to write something for you bloodhounds, and I look forward to yer comments… and feedback… I think.
So the first round of chum to you sharks are five films I feel are perhaps unknown to, or unappreciated by, American audiences. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn some or all of you have heard or seen SOME of these films, but not ALL. And they are all too damned good for this to be the case.
1977 B&W Directed by Charles Burnett
This ‘fro will turn you awn, BRUTHA!
The cornerstone of the Los Angeles movement of Black neo-realism in the late 70s, Killer of Sheep utilizes many non-professional actors, but concentrates its languid energy on a meat processor and the struggle with his South Central LA family and friends. It is gritty and fully informed by its location and the reality of domestic drama in and around lower class blacks.
The film was held up for thirty years due to copyright issues governing its soundtrack. The music, the cinematography and the acting performance by Hank Sanders really propel this film along to a numbing distance. It is to be admired, as this seminal work has finally been distributed on DVD, some ten years after securing its eternity as a pick for preservation by the Library of Congress.
1980 Directed by Nicolas Roeg
I think she has a pulse.
I like Nick Roeg, he of The Witches, Walkabout and Don’t Look Now, but this is his finest work. It encompasses his rigid discipline of parallel stories and intercutting narrative editing. A cinematographer by trade, Roeg’s frames are stunning and informative, and the editing tells the story back to front, from end to beginning. A bit of a precursor to Memento.
Harvey Keitel is an NYPD detective hunting/interviewing Art Garfunkel for the murder of Garfunkel’s sometime lover/patient. The acting is fantastic, taut and engrossing. This film is simply a brain-job of epic proportions, but always fascinating.
1995 English Subtitled Directed by Emir Kusturica
I dance to the strong Phallus in my hands!
Palm d’Or winner at the ‘95 Cannes Festival, this whack-job of epic Eastern European cinema portrays a Serbian village isolated underground during the Cold War. It is colorful and hallucinogenic, mad, torrid and manic. The music, the cinematography and acting performances will either enthrall you or piss you off to no end.
The film speaks to the fear and uncertainty of the time period. An example of paranoia to the nth degree, Underground speaks to film lovers in all the classical terms, then turns into a movie within a movie, when the revisionist leader turned national hero conceals his true motivation. Corruption and deception run rampant, and all because of a woman... and another man.
1951 B&W Directed by Samuel Fuller
Hi, my name’s Lucky Bastard!
"The REAL Korean War story!" Allegedly, this film inspired the dumb-fuck television executives at FOX to turn "M*A*S*H" into a wet blanket. And for all the wrong reasons. Sam Fuller, perhaps the most American of studio directors - he also served up genius in The Naked Kiss and Shock Corridor - works here from an autobiographical story.
Fuller was a WWII vet and translated this story to the then-current Korean War, and did so in less than two weeks of shooting. The film also made Fuller a bit of a ‘Commie’ sympathizer for a few scenes depicting a Japanese-American soldier retelling how his parents were interred in camps during the last great war. Raw and honest, this is what war films never are anymore.
1928 Silent/B&W Directed by King Vidor
But, honey, CTJ’s gonna be there with his slide-rule!
This has been outta print for the last fifteen years, as MGM is restoring it, possibly. But it is a travesty this film is not available to the public at large. It should ring true to all you corporate zombies out there.
John Sims fights conformity to make a life for his young bride, after his ambitions get the best of him. Tragic, subtle and beautiful, director King Vidor has some breathless moments, in particular, in various shots portraying the vast nothingness and endless faceless numbers corporate America can represent. This was nominated for the first ever Best Motion Picture Oscar in 1928.
It was hard enough to pare this down to ten, let alone five, so humor me, damnit.
Pickpocket by Robert Bresson
Bresson’s most accessible film for the modern viewer. Follows a man who moonlights as, you guessed it, a common thief.
In the Mood for Love by Wong Kar-Wai
This is the finest film made in the last ten years. I honestly believe that, and it happens to be a a sure thing for the ladies. Great great film, sensual and touching. Makes you think... and read. In Mandarin with English subtitles.
How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog by Michael Kalesniko
Charming comedy about life, kids, writing and bad actors. Kenny Branaugh shines. As does Robin Wright Penn and Jared Harris as Branaugh’s doppelganger.
The Furies by Anthony Mann
Barbara Stanwyck steals this movie, and is just... AWESOME as an entitled cattle baron’s strong-willed daughter. Don’t mess with HER, dudes!
Mystery Train by Jim Jarmusch
Perhaps Jarmusch’s strangest film to date, it follows several disparate individuals as they spend an evening in Memphis, TN. Japanese Elvis fans and Steve Buscemi, how can you go wrong?
I encourage you to check them ALL out, even if for a second viewing, I believe them to be a worthwhile endeavor. I would also love to hear yer thoughts and suggestions for future posts. Because, next time, class, we will discuss Woody Allen and his quest for .400...
Until then, friends, talk amongst yerselves.