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1
Off-Topic Discussion / Branded to Kill (1967)
« on: February 25, 2019, 05:53:59 PM »
This is my FIRST Japanese film and my first Yakuza film.  I had a feeling this was gonna be gritty and it didn't disappoint in that  area.  My experience with the French gangster/noir films lead me to believe the Yakuza films would be gritter than the American films also.  Branded to Kill is a hitman film directed by Seijun Suzuki ( more on him later) with Joe Shishido starring as the hitman Goro Hanada.  The hitmen in Japan have a ranking system.  Hanado is ranked 4. Isao Tamagawa plays Michihiko Yabura, the Yakuza boss who hires Hanado to escort a client to a destination.  Hanado is joined by cab driver Gihei Kasuga ( Hiroshi Minami) who himself was a former hitman but lost his nerve on a mission and took to drinking.  He is trying to redeem himself with this mission.  The plot thens goes off in a few different directions which I will not divulge to afford spoilers.  I will say that the plot involves some well, DIFFERENT plot devices which can leave you confused.

Remember I said this was directed by Seijun Suzuki?   Suzuki was a contract director hired to make this film for Nikkatsu ( which I found out is the oldest Japanese film studio.)  Nikkatsu already had experience with Suzuki and found him to be eccentric and ordered him to make a straight gangster film.  Suzuki did the opposite and literally got fired for making the film which resulted in him later suing Nikkatsu and winning but was blacklisted in Japan for a while by the film industry.  Among the many things Suzuki employed in the film was a extensive use of Jump Cuts. If you are not paying attention you can lose track of whats going on.

This is the first film that I can look at and say that I agree with the studio for firing him.........THEN, at the same time I say they are wrong because the film is a masterpiece.  Its garbage and a masterpiece at the same time, if thats possible, lol.  Suzuki doesn't use storyboards and impliments most of his script ideas on the fly during filming.  He also encourages input from others.  It shows because the film looks like two or three different films meshed together.  The thing is, after a initial theatrical release in which the film bombed, big time, its now considered a cult classic and a masterpiece, influencing such directors as Quentin Tarantino and Jim Jarmusch.  I agree that its a masterpiece and is a must watch for fans of gangster films.

I rank it a shaky 9.5 out of 10...  It can be purchased from Criterion.  I screened it on Amazon Prime.











2
Off-Topic Discussion / La Haine (1995)
« on: February 17, 2019, 08:52:12 AM »
Vincent Cassell ( Vinz), Hubert Kounde', and Said Taghmaoui ( Said) are three youths in their early 20s living in a French banlieue ( housing project) in the suburbs of Paris.  Based on real life events,  the film follows 24 hours in the lives of the three youths.  The film is about class struggles in modern France and Paris in particular. The film opens with real footage of French riots from the early 90s time period.  Abdel (Abdel Ahmed Ghili) a friend of the three youths has been beaten by the police and is hospitalized in critical condition.  Vinz wants to seek revenge but Hubert tries to talk sense into him through out the film.  Said is more concerned with chasing women but goes along with his friends.  During the riots, one of the police officers loses his weapon.  Vinz finds it and threatens throughout the film to use it but is thwarted by Hubert.  I'm not gonna go further with the plot because of spoilers.

One of the main draws to the film is the on location filming in a actual banlieue in Paris.  Due to the controversial subject matter only the suburb of Chanteloupe-les-Vignes allowed the director (Matthieu Kassovitz) to film on location.  The soundtrack features contemporary and classic hip hop, soul and funk music which is another standout of the film.  The performances of the three lead characters was also exceptional in this film.  The choice by the director to film in black and white adds a beautiful classic look and feel to the film and enhances the timeless philosophy that is being expounded upon in the film.  I would be remiss to not mention the fabulous camera techniques used in the film by the director.  Pierre Aim was the cinematographer here.

This is a great production.  I felt the plot dragged in some areas, but if you stick with it the film will draw you back in when it wanders.  I give the film a solid 9.5 out of 10...

( I saw this on Amazon Prime)












3
Off-Topic Discussion / The Kid (1921)
« on: January 25, 2019, 09:49:40 PM »
A MASTERPIECE.  This is my first Charlie Chaplin film.  My recent viewing of Metropolis ( my first silent film) has lead me to start exploring the silent films.  What a film this is.  Charlie Chaplin's Tramp character finds a baby boy in a alleyway that has been abandoned by his mother.  His mother had abandoned him in the backseat of her car parked in front of her huge home.  The car was stolen and left in that alleyway by the thieves.  The plot is simple so I'm not gonna go any further than that.
I did not know what to expect when I started watching this film.  I was blown away by the genius of Chaplin.  The plot and the subject matter is profound.  The acting by Chaplin and Jackie Coogan ( The Kid) are just perfect.  The score, also by Chaplin, was fantastic also.  There is nothing wrong here.  I saw a copy on Youtube and will take a look at the Criterion version.   Up next will be City Lights,  The Gold Rush and Modern Times.  I rate this a perfect 10 out of 10...




4
Off-Topic Discussion / Sapphire (1959)
« on: January 17, 2019, 04:49:08 PM »
Sapphire is a 1959 crime drama directed by Basil Dearden.  Again, Dearden tackles controversial subject matter and delivers a excellent film.  The plot from wikipedia:

The body of a pregnant young woman is found stabbed on Hampstead Heath. Although she appears to be white, when her brother (Earl Cameron) arrives at the police station to give evidence, the investigating police officers see that he is black. He confirms that he and Sapphire were both the children of a white father and a black mother, but Sapphire has recently been passing for white. Sapphire's white boyfriend, a student, immediately becomes the chief suspect, but, as the investigation proceeds, other aspects of Sapphire's life in London bring to light other possible suspects.

The standout work here is by Nigel Patrick ( The League of Gentlemen) as Superintendant Robert Hazard.  His very clever but NOT annoyingly clever portrayal of the Superintendant charged with solving the crime is excellent here.  The on location in London production of this film is first rate. Bearden is one of my favorite on location directors.  The cinematography here is done by Harry Waxman.  The plot itself takes you by surprise at the end.  A excellent work here and I rate it a solid 9 out of 10...


5
Off-Topic Discussion / All Night Long (1962)
« on: January 17, 2019, 04:38:36 PM »
Basil Dearden has quickly become one of my favorite directors.   From his subject matter to his wonderful cinematography ( in this case Edward Scaife), Bearden never fails to deliver a fabulous, if not perfect film.   All Night Long is his version of Othello.  Set in London it features Johnny Cousin ( Patrick McGoohen ) as the jealous drummer of bandleader Aurelius Rex ( Paul Harris).  Rex is married to Delia Lane ( Marti Stevens).  Keith Mitchell stars as " Cass ",  Rex's  best friend and band manager.  Richard Attenborough plays Rod Hamilton, a wealthy music promotor who with the help of Rex's friends and wife, throw him a surprise wedding anniversary party.   

The plot features Johnny Cousin plotting to not only breakup the marriage of Rex and Delia, but to also come between Rex and Cass and take Delia on the rode with him while he fronts his own band.  McGoohen does a excellent job as the villian here.  Paul Harris is superb as the stable, charming and charismatic Rex.  Cass is excellent here as the loyal friend.  As the film goes along you see a transformation with both characters that is just astounding from how they were at the beginning of the film.  Attenborough is superb as the laid back music promotor who tries and referees the whole dispute that goes down.

The just EXCELLENT cinematography here is done by Edward Scaife.  The exterior street scenes were filmed at Shad Thames, Southwark, London, England, UK.   The EXCELLENT score is another MAJOR standout of the film.  Dearden uses REAL jazzmen here.  I dare CigarJoe to find a better Jazz Noir, lol...  There have been numerous versions of Othello done for the screen and I say this modern reworking set to a London backdrop is just fabulous.  I rate this a perfect 10 out of 10...




6
Off-Topic Discussion / Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1973)
« on: January 17, 2019, 03:48:37 PM »
This is a wonderfully moving film by German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder starring Bridgette Mira and El Hedi ben Salem as a older German widow and a younger Morrocan immigrant respectfully.   The plot is simple.  Emmil Kurowski drops in a small bar one day to get out of the rain and sits at a table by herself.  Across the bar a group of young immigrants are playing cards.  A woman in the bar tauntingly suggests to Ali to go ask her for a dance.  He does and the group is surprised that he not only dances with her but also offers to escort her home since it was getting late and raining.  She accepts.

From there a most unexpected relationship develops and the remainder of the plot surrounds the response from friends, neighbors, family and coworkers of both parties to their interracial and age difference relationship.  There are so many scenes that leave you in awe with this film that you have to just see it to appreciate it.  Fassbender did excellent work here.  When i went and researched the film I found out that it was a film that he did in a hurry to fill in time between other projects ( I found he was notorious about putting out product very fast).  This work pace actually is part of what made this a great film.  Its straight to the point and doesn't beat you up over the head with ANY wasted material.  Everything has a point and is very well done.  The actors were just perfect here.  The gorgeous cinematography was done by Jürgen Jürges.   Its a must see film and I rate this one a solid 10 out of 10...


7
Off-Topic Discussion / The Earrings of Madame De... (1956)
« on: January 17, 2019, 03:31:21 PM »
Max Ophüls directs this masterful story about a noble housewife (Danielle Darrieux ) and a pair of earrings given to her by her husband General Andre De... ( Charles Boyer).  The story follows the convoluted tale of how the earrings changed ownership several times.  One of the owners is a suitor of Ms. De... a Baron played wonderfully by Vittorio De Sica.  Charles Boyer did a excellent job of the husband who gave his wife and suitor plenty of rope before he reeled them in.  The film is very gorgeous with cinematography by Christian Matras.  Another solid French film that i rate a solid 9 out of 10...




8
Off-Topic Discussion / A Man Escaped (1956)
« on: January 17, 2019, 03:22:10 PM »
This is a very good Robert Bresson prison escape film.  It stars Charles Le Clainche as François Jost, a member of the French Resistance who is being held at a German Prison.  The plot is simple but very engaging and suspenseful.  Bresson did a wonderful job here making something soo simple yet soo hard being very suspenseful.  Featuring cinematography by    Léonce-Henri Burel.   I rate this one a solid 9 out of 10...




9
Off-Topic Discussion / Quai des Orfevres (1947)
« on: January 17, 2019, 02:34:29 PM »
This is another fabulous film by Henri Clouzot. The plot from wikipedia:

Jenny Lamour ( Suzy Delair) wants to succeed in the theatre. Her husband and accompanist is Maurice Martineau (Blier), a mild-mannered but jealous man. When he finds out that Jenny has been making eyes at Brignon, a lecherous old businessman, in order to further her career, he loses his temper and threatens Brignon with death. Despite this, Jenny goes to a secret rendezvous at Brignon's apartment. He is murdered the same evening. The criminal investigations are led by Inspector Antoine (Louis Jouvet).

Jouvet really stood out here along with Delair.  Again, Clouzot delivers a beautiful atmospheric picture with cinematographer Armand Thirard filming on location in Paris.  The plot itself is very pretty good with a plot twist that interests you even if you knew it was coming.  I really love the French directors and the grittiness they bring to their noirs.  This one is no exception... A solid 9 out of 10...





10
Off-Topic Discussion / Les Diaboliques (1955)
« on: January 17, 2019, 11:24:05 AM »
My journey into foreign films has taken me to Henri Clouzot.  I was pleasantly surprised and even more surprised to find out that Hitchcock tried to get rights to the film first.  The plot is simple:  A wife and mistress in love with the same man conspire to knock him off.  SPOILER ALERT.  When the husband was not found at the bottom of that pool that really threw me for a loop.  Most directors couldn't have pulled this off and kept the suspense but Clouzot did a fantastic job here.  The acting and cinematography was first rate.  The plot exceptional.  I rate this a solid 8 out of 10...




11
Off-Topic Discussion / La Règle du Jeu ( Rules of the Game) 1939
« on: December 09, 2018, 10:26:16 AM »
disclaimer. couldn't find a seperate thread about this great film.

I'm in love with French films so I had to see this film which is considered one of the greatest films of all time.  Now, I learned with Citizen Kane that the polls can be subjective so I came into the viewing with open thoughts about how it would play out to my tastes.  It played WELL.  You all know the basic plot.  A group of bourgeious French upper class people throw a big party at Robert and Christine's country estate, La Colinière.  Here several love triangles are examined which expose the immoral character of people hiding behind the facade of the "titles" that they have earned in life.  Its a VERY intricant and nuanced examination of narcissism.  The film is soo harsh that on its initial release it was banned in France. Seems the film touched too many toes with truth.

As far as the film itself I saw no faults.  The excellent camera techniques used in the film were groundbreaking.  Orson Welles sights the film as a great inspiration for that reason.  The camera techniques used allowed Renior to film action going on in both the fore and background at the same time with clarity.  I'm not a technical man when it comes to camera techniques but those who have seen the film know what I'm talking about.  The sound was captured the same way.  You would have dialogue being spoken WITH background ambient noises going on at the same time.  It was just superb.  At first these techniques make the film seem confusing.  Then you learn to appreciate how he is actually taking you into a deeper spontaneous view of how the action would be playing out in reality.

Spoiler Alert:
I've read a comment on the board about the film where the poster said the ending of the film didn't make sense because the two men should have known that Christine was in the hooded coat instead of the maid.  I disagree.  You have two men who are both very emotional at the moment because of actions that immediately proceeded this event.  You also have this setting at night literally in the woods and I believe it may have been a slight rain.  With their emotions running as high as it was I can see them mistaken the two women.

Overall I believe the films stands up to its reputation.  I saw this on Amazon Prime and will be ordering the Criterion version.  I rate the film a solid 9.5 out of 10 because of the subject matter, plot, cinematography, music and historical value.  A great film...






12
Off-Topic Discussion / The Criterion Channel replaces Filmstruck
« on: November 17, 2018, 07:47:40 AM »
I just found out that Filmstruck has been discontinued by Turner and Criterion is gonna fill the void with their own streaming channel after a petition against Turner's decision was launched.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.theverge.com/platform/amp/2018/11/16/18099126/criterion-collection-streaming-service-filmstruck-warner-media

13
Off-Topic Discussion / Rififi 1955
« on: October 25, 2018, 11:16:11 AM »
Disclaimer:  I searched high and low for a thread that was started about this film.  I only found the filmed mentioned in numerous threads so if this needs to be merged with a existing thread, my bad.

Having recently been turned on to Jean Pierre Melville and French gangster/noir films a couple of months ago,  my new obsession with French and other foreign films in those genres lead me to Riffifi.  I became aware of this film and its reputation and couldn't wait to get my hands on my Criterion copy that I received this week.  I decided to save a little dough and opted for the DVD version.  If a film is gonna be mentioned in the same breath as any gangster film by my new favorite director, Melville,  well I had to see what the uproar is all about.

You guys know the plot.  Tony Le Stephanois ( Jean Servais) has been released from prison early and meets up with old gang members Jo ( Carl Mohner) and Mario ( Robert Manuel ).  They are later joined by Cesar ( Jules Dassin).  Tony is initially approached by Jo and Mario about a quick jewelry store grab by taking some jewelry from the store window of a luxurious jewelry store.  Tony declines but circumstances later prompts him to not only accept the job but he raises the stakes by insisting they rob the store's safe instead.

What follows is THE most compelling heist I believe captured on film.  Melville's heist in Le Cercle Rouge is pretty damn close though but Dassin's version gets the edge.  THATS for starters.  The plot takes a abrupt shift that I will not reveal for anybody who hasn't seen the film.  Just let me say it takes off to a even  higher level.  There was not ONE dull moment in this film.

This film, just like the gangster films of Melville that I love, stayed with me a LOOOOOOOONNNGGG time after I viewed it.  Its just a PERFECT MASTERPIECE.  There is not one thing about this film that isn't damn near perfect.  The plot is badass.  The acting is badass.  ( Dassin gives Welles a run for the money for actor/director in the same film ). The music, The cinematography, everything here is on point.  Another major thing I learned when researching the film. Dassin is AMERICAN and created this masterpiece in France after being blacklisted in Hollywood.  I've seen Naked City.  Did not like. Dassin's learning ground.  I saw Night and the City.  Dassin is getting there. A near masterpiece.   Rififi. A masterpiece.

Dassin, upset with his treatment in Hollywood takes a project originally intended for Melville ( who gave him his blessings to take over the project) and created not only what might be the best heist film ever but one of THE best films ever.  To have me saying this after seeing the masterpieces that Melville created is quite a accomplishment.  Dassin doesn't create this film in America.  The raw grittiness of foreign films at that time allowed him to create a film that takes the premise of The Asphalt Jungle to a level the censors wouldn't have allowed.  That situation propelled Dassin to create a Masterpiece he most likely would've never done.  What else can I say.... a masterpiece and a perfect 10 out of 10...














14
Off-Topic Discussion / Shoeshine (1946)
« on: October 14, 2018, 07:51:33 AM »
I came across this film after studying the career of director Vittorio De Sica after I screened his masterpiece " Bicycle Thieves".   Shoeshine is another film he directed in the Neorealist movement of Italy.  The beginning of the plot from wiki:

" Two friends, Giuseppe Filippucci (Rinaldo Smordoni) and Pasquale Maggi (Franco Interlenghi), test-ride horses. Though they are saving to purchase a horse, it is difficult for them to afford one, as they are only living off their income from shining shoes in the streets of Rome.

One day Giuseppe's older brother, Attilio, visits the boys and tells them that Panza (a fence) has some work for them. Pasquale brings Giuseppe along to meet Panza, who gives them two blankets to sell. Giuseppe and Pasquale bring the blankets to a fortune teller, who buys them. After the sale, Panza, Attilio, and another man burst into the fortune teller's house, posing as policemen. They accuse the fortune teller of handling stolen goods, and finding Giuseppe and Pasquale, force them out and pretend to take them into custody. Attilio tells the boys to go away and keep quiet, letting them keep the blanket money (2,800 lira) as well as 3,000 additional lira. With this money, the boys have enough to finally buy a horse. "

The film was excellently directed by De Sica, cinematography by Anchise Brizzi and music scoring by Alessandro Cicognini.  I felt the middle part of the film was a little slow but it picked up steam and had one of the saddest endings I've seen in a film.   Its a great production and a must see for fans of Neorealist films.  I rate this one a 8 out of 10...










15
Off-Topic Discussion / Superfly (2018)
« on: September 11, 2018, 06:07:51 PM »
I'm a huge fan of the original Superfly that came out in 1972.  The original is about a New York city drug dealer named Youngblood who wants to make one last big score and get out of the game.  The original Superfly was played by Ron O'Neal.  The original is one of the VERY few blaxploitation films that is very critically acclaimed and has a cult following. A standout of the film is the soundtrack by Curtis Mayfield.  The remake follows the plot almost exactly but has some major plot differents.  The setting is moved to Atlanta to give it more of a modern Urban feel.  In this one, Youngblood is played by Trevor Jackson.

Any fans of Urban gangster films will see resemblences to the film " Belly"  (1998) and " Shaft" 2008 which was another remake of a original, starring Samuel Jackson as Shaft.  As far as the film itself, it was better than expected.  The cinematography was gorgeous (Amir Mokri) with a soundtrack by Josh Atchley, which also featured several hip hop songs by the artist " Future".  The plot was pretty good, THOUGH, contrived at times.  The plot built up several subplots to a very good tension, but one of the subplots I felt was rushed to a ending at the end of the film.  Overall, if you have nothing to do, its a kick back GOOD action gangster film that will surprise you.  The 1990s featured a slew of films in the Urban gangster arena, but the genre has kinda been slow during  the 2000s.  This was a welcome return to those types of films.  I rate it a solid 8 out of 10....









RON O'NEAL


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