Friday, February 19, 2010

Movie Movies

I finally saw my first film by the master Japanese director Shohei Imamura that is called “Pigs and Battleships.” Not a very appetizing title, but then again neither is the film and I don‘t mean that in a bad way. Imamura when young worked with the great director Ozu and became part of the Japanese new wave, at the same time as the French New Wave was happening. “Pigs” released in 1961 takes place in 1960 during the 15th year of the Allied occupation of Japan in and around Yokohama and the large United States Naval base at Yokosuka. The plot centers on the denizens of the area; the pimps, whores, hoods, and gangsters all trying to get what they can get, no matter what they have do to get it. Also along for the getting is an influx of American sailors who also want what they want namely to get drunk and laid and maybe pick up some cheap souvenirs to send to the folks back home. There is one vivid and imaginatively done scene of a sexual assault between three sailors and a young girl that is both restrained yet disturbing, and is a testament to Imamura‘s narrative and visual talents. The film is beautifully shot in wide screen and black and white, (the fine Criterion transfer does it justice), and Imamura’s camera rolls and flows all over the neon lit streets and into the tight cramped filthy rooms and bars. Its summertime and the living ain’t so easy. It’s so steamy and hot that you can almost smell the stink and feel the heat. Imamura puts most of his attention on a young couple in lust. Kinta a foolish petty hoodlum and Haruko a dim but gentle barmaid, and believe me this is a match not made anywhere near heaven. Surrounding them are the pigs (real ones) and the human kind of swine, that leads to a climax that is not all that unexpected except for an unbelievable but cinematically exciting shootout between gang members and well yes pigs and to say more would spoil your enjoyment of the film.

I can say with a straight face that "The Giant Claw" is one big 1957 cheapo sci-fi laugh fest. This cold war gem about a giant chicken from outer space who attacks the earth for some obscure reason stars macho Jeff Morrow who plays Mitch' MacAfee (how's that for a butch name). Mitch who is a pilot is the first one to spot the big ole chicken speeding past his plane and of course no one believes him. B queen Mara Corday plays Sally Caldwell a brilliant mathematician who when not busy looking busy playing with compasses and slide rules is busy bringing the guys coffee and sandwiches, which seems to be a prerequisite for any strong woman character to do in B monster-sci-fi schlock films. As the world is being destroyed they’re off in some kitchen getting the guys cups of java and tuna sandwiches. Ok this is a few steps up from Ed Wood, mainly because they had the resources of Columbia Pictures, but the film is made up of many clips from other sci-fi films and very cheap but sweet little miniature buildings and trains that the big chicken picks up in his mouth. and spits out. There’s lots of scientific mumbo jumbo and that chicken puppet flying around the skies nearly made me choke with laughter. This is outsider movie making at its best or worst if you prefer. Part of the Sam Katzman set of dvds. Watch them if you dare.

I thought they stopped making movies like Deception in 1987. This is a paint by numbers so called erotic thriller with a miscast cast from Hugh Jackman as the deceptive friend to Ewan McGregor as the deceived friend and a totally out of place Michelle Williams who walks around with a “What the fuck Am I doing in This piece of shit” look on her face. I mean any movie with Hugh (I’m not gay) Jackman (oily and greasy as usual) in it and who by the way I wouldn’t trust from here to there in a movie or in real life gives the movie’s plot away in the first five minutes that he’s on screen. I kept expecting him to jump on a piano shake his little ass and sing something from “The Boy From Oz“ but no such luck. Instead we are forced to watch him act, which is much worse than listening to him sing. Also note that you do not have to be even remotely intelligent to guess this plot and its sorry ass devices, just think of the most obvious and stupid plot twists and they happen as if by magic or by bad direction and writing. Poor Ewan plays the schnook accountant who’s only had sex with 4 women in his life (yes very believable) and gets hooked by Jackman into a big time money scam that also involves getting Ewen hooked on a private sex club of which Ms. Williams is a member and who really falls hard for nerdy McGregor while having Chinese food in Chinatown. Get the cute movie reference here. For 5 minutes the film has a jolt of life when the great Charlotte Rampling appears as the sexy cougar belle of Wall Street so cherish those 5 minutes. The film does look great with shinny cinematography by Dante Spinotti, but so what.

Aparajito (The Unvanquished) is the 2nd film in Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy and can easily be seen and cherished without seeing the 1st or 3rd films of the series. This is a universal story about family and the strong bonds that tie a mother to her child. The film follows the young Apu in his day to day life and the hard circumstances that he, his mother and father endure in their simple and sparse environment. There is loss when his father suddenly dies but also moments of joy as the little boy Apu, who is smart and ambitious for an education grows up and leaves his home and his mother to go to school in Calcutta. This is a sparse film with a subtle score by Ravi Shaker, and lovely performances by the two actors who play Apu at 10 and later as a young man, and especially Karuna Bannerjee who plays the mother. The dvd print is not bad, but it’s not great either with print scratches here and there. I can understand that this film might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s slowly paced and the exoticism might be off putting for some.


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