Not to bee seen without crackers
What is it about outer space that makes monsters of men? As if Monster a Go-Go and Night of the Blood Beast were not enough, The Incredible Melting Man is yet another story about an astronaut who returns from space a changed man. What starts of with a bang and is quickly proceeded by an amazingly bad use of slow-motion and breaking glass, becomes a laughable thriller that oozes along slowly until it burst with unforeseen results in the last few minutes. The entire film is capped off with moralistic finger-wagging. It seems man never learns from his mistakes and that some poor black janitor is always having to come around and clean up the white man’s mess. Literally, this is the symbolism the film offers. If you are not too caught-up in the overly serious acting of Burr DeBenning, who plays the cracker loving Dr. Ted Nelson, keep an eye out for Jonathan Demme, who becomes a quick midnight snack for the monster astronaut.
All the world is a stage, but only some people are in the movies.
There is something both magical and inspirational about a filmmaker who circumvents the system and finds a way to deliver their original voice to the big screen. Shot on weekends with equipment and film stock ‘borrowed’ from a television ad agency, Paul Bartel’s The Secret Cinema tells the story of a young woman who believes her entire life is secretly being filmed. The exploits of Jane are a major sensation with all of her friends. Even her own mother comes out to see what misfortunes Jane will encounter next. Unable to secure proof of her theory, Jane quickly goes insane as whispers and clues solidify her speculation. IfThe Secret Cinema sounds like The Truman Show it is worth noting that Bartel’s story predated The Truman Show by several decades. I am was moved by the paranoia portrayed in Bartel’s film and at an economical 28 minutes, I am more impressed with him ability to craft a well-constructed, entertaining and thought provoking short on a shoe string budget. Mark another victory for David over Goliath.
10 minutes longer and still too cracked to figure out.
My favorite cinematic mind-melter. While not the strangest film I’ve ever seen, The Visitor is certainly the most fascinating blend of slumming actors and convoluted storytelling. This particular version of the film includes a new intro that attempts to add clarity through loopy exposition. You know your film is a mess when the producers cut out background details just to speed things along. Without or without the silly sci-fi/quasi-religious set-up, director’s cut of The Visitor still delights with its madness and now, in this longer version there is even comic relief, in the form of two black tow-truck drivers. I am certain this scene was nixed for time as well as political correctness.
It was to be a night of drunks, drug addicts, and beatniks. Due to a technological snafu, we were unable to watch The Connection, so we jumped right to Pull My Daisy. Personally, this film is hit or miss for me. I’ve seen it and loved its off-beat rhythms and its air of spontaneity. Tonight, agitated by the technical problems I found the antics of the Ginsberg, Corso, Orlovsky, et al. to be agitating, juvenile, pointless. Their free-spirit flew in direction opposition to my planned agenda. I cannot help it is the night ran amiss by things seemingly out of my control. Still, I felt responsible and could not easily get over the need to change the plan. Perhaps, I would have made a lousy beatnik. In fact, I know I would.
The neighborhood is gone, but the film is finally coming to theaters and home video
A somewhat forgotten film that deserves to be recognized as a key work of American independent cinema, right up there with Cassavetes’ Shadows. The Exiles is a docudrama about a night in the lives of American Indians living in the Bunker Hill section of Los Angeles. Between drinking, card playing, skirt chasing and moments of isolation, a series of wonderful interviews serve as narration allowing the viewer to peer into the introspective thoughts of key characters. It reminds me of tactics later used by Godard or Rouch, and yet this predates much of the new-wave and was released the same year as Chronicle of a Summer.
When I first saw a clip of this film in Los Angeles Plays Itself I grew obsessed with seeing it. With some persistence and luck, I was able to track down a copy. It’s three years later and it appears the rest of the world is about to discover this film. Milestones, the same company that put out Killer of Sheep, is about to release this on DVD. I couldn’t be happier and I can’t wait to see the new print of this film. It is such a wonderful glimpse into a world now long gone. Let’s hope the film stick in people’s minds longer than when it was first released.
Not on DVD!...Is this the fate of independents?
I first saw this film as part of a double feature. Laws of Gravity played with Man Bites Dog, both were part of a film festival themed around ultra-violence. The years was 1994. Independent cinema was booming. Nick Gomez was being hailed as a director to watch. So, how come I don’t hear many folks talking about this film today?
I can’t even find a proper DVD release of this film. While others like Tarantino and Kevin Smith went on to cult superstar status, Nick Gomez has made a steady career of directing television shows. The shows he directs have some clout – Homicide, The Shield, Veronica Mars, Dexter, but none of this subsequent work compares to his first feature film.
The Brooklyn losers that populate Laws of Gravity are one spark away from erupting into a fit of violence. They are trapped between the irresponsibility of youth and the pressures of manhood. They rise up only by tearing each other down. Gomez captures all of the action in very intimate, claustrophobic framing. As the vocal sparring escalates, there is no where to escape. It’s uncomfortable watching these wanna-be criminals destroy their lives. Even if their arguments do not end in body blows or bullets, the constant verbal abuse takes its toll and reminds me words can hurt just as much as sticks and stones.
It’s been over 15 years since this film was first released. Today it deserves recognition, if not for being one of the greatest, most harrowing independent films released during that early 90′s frenzy of indie cinema, than for possibly out doing Goodfellas for its use of the F’word.
Movies have always relied on a suspension of disbelief, some more so than others.
The bulk of Sullivan’s Last Call is a personal conversation between two long time friends, perhaps lovers. The film only runs 18 minutes, but in that short time each of the two characters shifts in so many delightful ways. It’s almost impossible to believe and just slightly less believable than the lead character’s decision to be celibate.
Summing this up as a sexy little film about celibacy is a disservice. The film does have odd sex appeal, thanks mostly to writer, director, and lead actress Francesca Rizzo. But, it’s not really about celibacy. That’s just a front for deeper problems. As the conversation carries on and facades slip away, we get glimpses of those deeper problems, but never long enough to pin them down.
As amazed as I was by the skill of the two actors and their ability to transform their characters at a moments notice, I was even more amazed that as a filmmaker/actor, Rizzo does not rely on handheld camera work to capture these wonderfully personal moments. It has become a both a cliche and a convenience that the jittery frame of hand-held camera work has come to represent reality. Rizzo’s camera is stable, but not static. The camera work feels almost fresh in its return to basics. I find it equally refreshing to see the inner lives of someone over the age of 29. In both regards she feels like a mature filmmaker. She is quite the anomaly and I can’t believe she hasn’t gone on to be a big name filmmaker.
This is not a movie. It's a movie impersonating a book.
“This then, this is not a movie. This is a libel, slander, defamation of character, a prolonged insult, a god of spit in the face of art, a kick in the pants to god, man, destiny, time, love, beauty, what you will.”
Those are the first lines of the film. How apt they are. A decent book gets turned into a far-from-interesting, loosely told film, horribly undercut by these just awful cut-aways to utterly stupid imagery. Wanna guess what dirty word is paired with the image of a kitty-cat? Like I said, stupid.
Still, I am fascinated with how Rip Torn came to be the go-to actor for machismo and misogyny between 1969 and 1970. In that time span he was in Coming Apart, Maidstone, and this. Now, the poor bastard is taking comic knocks to the head in films like Dodgeball.
The Great Adventure toes the line between sentimentality and superb. Not necessarily a nature documentary and not exactly a personal memoir, director Arne Sucksdorff created a hybrid drama that is either a distant cousin or direct influence on the nature documentaries of Walt Disney. The drama in The Great Adventure revolves around the a young boy’s attempt to domisticate a river otter. At first, the wily creature makes an adorable pet, but soon the boy realizes the hard work and responsibility that come with caring for another person. I say person because Sucksdorff treats all the animals in his film like characters. He does not go as far as Disney, completely anthropomorphizing the animals that live in the wooded area around the boy’s farm. Still, the owl, the bobcat, the deer and the family of foxes all play a role, some predator, some prey. Through them all, the young boy learns about life and death. Were it not for the latter, this would be all too sappy, but Sucksdorff does not shy away from the hostile side of nature. Bobcats eat other animals, farmer’s shoot foxes, otters run off to mate. In Sucksdorff’s world these are simple unpleasant truths, that both pain a child and strengthen him. I have to commend Sucksdorff for both his beautiful imagery and for the harsh realities he depicts. The entire film is obviously fabricated, its drama stitched together from a wide array of shots designed to isolate the animals and create tension when juxtaposed with one another. Even if the film is not a direct re-telling, for someone like Suckdorff who grew up around nature and who had a deep kinship with animals the truth comes through not in how he captured or constructed the action in the film, but how his young protagonist relates to the world around him. The questions remains, is this more of a nature documentary or a coming of age drama? I’d have to say it’s more enjoyable and more rewarding if you go with the latter.