ONIBABA

  onibaba_poster 1964 – Kaneto Shindo                                                                             

“I’m not a demon! I’m a human being!”  

 synopsis:

Japan’s war-torn 14th century:                                                                                               In a marshland overgrown with endless swaying reeds, a woman and her daughter-in-law cling on the edge of survival. They mercilessly prey on wounded samurai warriors fleeing from a nearby battlefield, killing them and selling their armour for handfuls of rice.               When the younger woman falls for a handsome young deserter, the mother determines to stop the affair – with unexpected and shocking results!

cam_03 “People are both the devil and God… and are truly mysterious.” – Japanese writer/director Kaneto Shindo.

Onibaba is humanity stripped bare!                                                                                     Existence here is purely based on physiological demands – food, sex, shelter, and above all – self-preservation. There is no God to in the be found in this vast wasteland – just the ceaseless dry whisperings of the wind through the endless susuki grasses, the oppressive heat, and the utter desolation of its inhabitants. One of the most fiercely primal depictions of the human condition on celluloid, Onibaba is a haunting, mesmeric experience.                                                                                                                              A witness to the dehumanising horrors of WW II, Shindo, a committed communist, adapted a Buddhist parable to contain his virulent anti-war, anti-capitalist message.       For Shindo, this dog-eat-dog world, fueled by the raw instincts of death and sex, is a microcosm of the insatiable demands of capitalism. The result is a tale of erotic noir that is psychological horror at its most brilliantly subversive.                                                             The uniquely spare quality of Onibaba serves these themes well. The dynamic wide-screen framing, minimalist dialogue and exposition and the dark and earthy performances of Nobuko Otowa and Jitsuko Yoshimura are balanced to perfection. Kiyomi Kuroda’s lustrous black-and-white cinematography haunts as much as the proceedings themselves, particularly in the film’s eerie nighttime passages. And Hikaru Hayashi’s unnerving score consisting of saxophones (to echo the sound of wind through reeds), primitivist drums, raucous tubas and ritualistic voices, has a fever to it that is equal to the stark and hypnotic beauty that permeates every frame of this film.

Onibaba is more than just a witches’ brew of Gothic horror, it is an elemental and timeless classic!                                                                                                                                                 

trailer:

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links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onibaba_(film)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058430/?ref_=nv_sr_1

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/onibaba/

reviews:

http://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2010/oct/15/onibaba-kaneto-shindo-devil-woman

http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9A07E4D9143CE733A25753C1A9649C946491D6CF

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REMBRANDT

 Rembrandt_poster  1936 – Alexander Korda                                                                             

“Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.”  

 synopsis:

In 1642, Rembrandt is at the height of his fame when his adored wife suddenly dies and his work takes a dark turn that offends his patrons. Devoting himself entirely to his painting, he faces both bankruptcy and the scorn of society when he takes up with a pretty maid.                                                                                .

cam_03 Biographical films can often be problematic – they may well capture the chronology and details of a subject, but rarely do they capture that essential quality that makes that subject a source of our fascination. Rarely too, can a film concerned with art become a work of art in itself. Alexander Korda‘s Rembrandt is the exception.

Focusing on the last 27 years of the master painter’s life, Rembrandt gives us not only a perspective into the life and times of the artist, but also a marvelous insight into the poetic mind of the man himself. Charles Laughton‘s portrayal of Rembrandt van Rijn avoids any need to glorify or mythologise, but rather deeply concentrates on the humanity of his character and the unyielding integrity of his art. Bearing an uncanny resemblance to the artist himself, Laughton lights up the screen with his soulful ruminations about the nature of life, women, social status, success, and his struggles between vision and reality. So complete is this immersion in character, by the time this beautiful and tender film ends, it is difficult to tell of any separation between the two great artists – Laughton and Rembrandt.

Under the masterful eye of Alexander Korda, Rembrandt’s world is brilliantly staged – Georges Périnal’s cinematography paints the artist’s struggles on the screen in such vivid black and white that it almost captures the luminosity of a canvas by Rembrandt himself. The costumes, locations and set design, though all executed through the limitations the studio system of the day, still contribute to a film of the rarest quality. The supporting cast too, including Elsa Lanchester as Hendrickje, Rembrandt’s maid who also became his lover and Roger Livesey as the beggar who was the model for Rembrandt’s painting of King Saul, are just perfection.                                                                                                   Rembrandt is so much more than a film about a famous artist, it brilliantly achieves an atmosphere of clarity and of soul that is worthy of the authentic nature of the man himself.

trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuWasFUW1Dsrembrandt_04

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links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rembrandt_(1936_film)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0028167/plotsummary?ref_=tt_ov_pl

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1017391-rembrandt/

reviews:

http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9D06E5DE1F39EE3BBC4B53DFB467838D629EDE&partner=Rotten%2520Tomatoes

http://www.deepfocusreview.com/reviews/rembrandt.asp

http://homepages.sover.net/~ozus/rembrandt.htm

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THE CREMATOR

  cremator_poster  1969 (Spalovač Mrtvol) – Juraj Herz                                                                                                

“No one will suffer. I’ll save them all. “  

 synopsis:

Czechoslovakia, late 1930s:                                                                                               Karl Kopfrkingl likes his work at a crematorium in Prague. Obsessed with his duties, he reads the Tibetan book of the dead and believes he is not just cremating the dead, but liberating the souls of the departed. A Nazi invasion immanent, Karl descends into a mania that allows him to act out his disturbed beliefs.

cam_03 The dark pearl of the Czechoslovak New Wave – The Cremator is often presented as being a stand out black comedy. However, although it is filled with a certain dark humour, it’s quickly clear that laughter is not it’s main forte. Rather, it’s the strange witches brew of horror, drama, comedy and experimental film genres that not only makes this film so uncomfortably weird, but a profoundly original film.                                             Although a leading modernist director Juraj Herz also draws deeply upon the cinematic roots of German Expressionist film to create his fantastically distorted world. Through Stanislov Milota’s dazzling camerawork, we experience Karl’s journey into madness through a range of hallucinogenic visuals – including expressionistic lighting, superb deep focus, extreme close ups, fish eye lens, startlingly off-balanced compositions and jarring transitions. And when combined with the hypnotic sound design, haunting, opera-inspired score and a trance like, deep baritone narration – The Cremator becomes a breathtaking marriage of sound and visuals that truely worms its way inside your head.                           Rudolf Hrušínský as Karl the funeral director, literally and figuratively fills the frame with a masterfully grotesque performance. His delightfully chubby cherubic face hints at mirth and menace in equal parts as he draws us on from a portrait of a extremely quirky but well-mannered gentleman, through to the depths of a fully-realised monster.

Perhaps The Cremator may be not an easy watch for most viewers, but it does reward those who allow the film the time to express its own unique style. Lovers of Roman Polanski’s early works, particularly Repulsion* might find a similar, if grossly exaggerated, atmosphere here.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

trailer:

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links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cremator

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0063633/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/cremator/

reviews:

http://sensesofcinema.com/2007/feature-articles/cremator-juraj-herz/

http://www.horrortalk.com/movie-reviews/316-the-cremator.html

http://www.cinemafunk.com/movie-reviews/the-cremator.html

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THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL

  ex_angel_POSTER1962 (El Angel Exterminador– Luis Bunuel                                                                                              

“The help becomes more impertinent each day.”  

 synopsis:

The guests at an upper-class dinner party… inexplicably, find themselves unable to leave.

cam_03  Luis Buñuel‘s The Exterminating Angel is an absurdist satire on the slow and deteriorating breakdown of human civilization.

 Often associated with the surrealist movement of the 1920s, Bunuel collaborated with Salvador Dali on the sixteen minute short,  Un Chien Andalou. This film and L’Age d’Or have gone down in history as the foundation stones of surrealist cinema.                     Even when he formally broke with the Surrealist movement in favour of much more political content in his work, Bunuel was profoundly influenced by it’s exploration of a symbolic language of the unconscious mind and it’s insistence on freedom from literal interpretations of the nature of reality. Although he would venture in other genres such as documentary films, the themes of his later narrative films are often seen through this lens of the absurd and allegorical. Due to his Communist loyalties Bunuel was unable to return to Spain after the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939), and much of Bunuel’s major works, including The Exterminating Angel, were made in Mexico.                                                 As such, being both surreal and political,The Exterminating Angel is a potent union of both major influences in Bunuel’s life. It manages both a withering allegory of the mechanisms of social power and a philosophical challenge to our perceptions of “normal reality”.                                                                                                                            Buñuel delights in his scrutiny of the upper class, through the example of the diners at the home of an aristocrat, and finds them consumed by narcissism, hypocrisy, greed and foolishness. Unable to leave after the dinner, they lack the necessary moral force to break free and are entrapped in a bizarre hell of their own making. The veneer of their cultured personas begins to crumble and they are soon exposed as no better than the most depraved and base of animals.                                                                                                 Bunuel would no doubt delight in the myriad interpretations possible from The Exterminating Angel. Speculation is definitely encouraged, and although we may still finally arrive with as many questions as answers, we will always be mesmerized by Buñuel’s wild imagination and engrossing philosophical perspectives.

 trailer:

https://mubi.com/films/the-exterminating-angel (english subtitles)

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links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Exterminating_Angel_(film)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056732/?ref_=nv_sr_2

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/le-angel-exterminador-the-exterminating-angel/

reviews:

http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-the-exterminating-angel-1962

http://cinephilefix.wordpress.com/2010/02/15/european-art-film-an-analysis-of-luis-bunuels-the-exterminating-angel/

http://www.classicartfilms.com/exterminating-angel-the-1962

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THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS

sucess_poster 1957 – Alexander Mackendrick                                                                                                

“You’re a cookie full of arsenic.”  

 synopsis:

New York Broadway, late 1950s:                                                                                              An utterly ruthless newspaper columnist coerces a unscrupulous press agent to destroy his kid sister’s relationship with a musician.

cam_03   Broadway is a jungle.                                                                                       There is only the conquerors and the conquered – the powerful strut amongst the glamour and the neon, and the weak are mercilessly exploited and occasionally devoured… to a tantalizing Jazz soundtrack. That Sweet Smell Of Success is as a searing tale of power and human corruption as was ever put to film, is perhaps all the more surprising when considered where it is set.                                                                                                  Burt Lancaster is excellent as the towering embodiment of self-serving malevolence, J.J. Hunsecker, the all powerful newspaper columnist trying to keep control his sister’s life. Ruthlessly Intelligent and armed with a lacerating tongue, he dispenses his justice in a brutal fashion – careers, even lives, hang on his every whim.Tony Curtis contributes a wonderfully oily performance as the venal, double-talking sycophantic press agent who is willing to go to any extremes to climb up the greasy pole of success. The sheer effrontery of some of  the human behaviour on display makes Sweet Smell Of Success such a feast to enjoy.                                                                                                               Some of the best black and white cinematography of an urban space ever by James Wong Howe , the great jazzy score by Elmer Bernstein, and expressive direction by Alexander Mackendrick are only topped off by the bravura whiplash dialogue of Ernest Lehman and Clifford Odets.

“You’re dead, son. Get yourself buried.”

trailer:

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links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_Smell_of_Success

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0051036/?ref_=nv_sr_1

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/sweet_smell_of_success/

reviews:

http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-the-sweet-smell-of-success-1957

http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9B0CE7DA1338E73ABC4051DFB066838C649EDE

http://www.metacritic.com/movie/sweet-smell-of-success

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SECONDS

seconds-poster  1966  – John Frankenheimer                                                                                                

“What Are Seconds?”

 

synopsis:

Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) is a middle-aged man whose life has lost purpose. Approached by a secret organization, known simply as the “Company”, he agrees to a procedure that will give him a second chance in life.                                       But Arthur finds “rebirth” comes with it’s own price.

cam_03 Seconds is a compellingly paranoid interpretation on the legend of Faust.             This dystopian sci-fi/psychedelic noir is easily one of the darkest, loneliest films ever funded by a Hollywood studio.                                                                                                 It is the third entry in John Frankenheimer’s unofficial “paranoia trilogy” (the other two titles being The Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days in May), and although initially booed at the Cannes Film Festival years ago, this distorted gem has gone on to take it’s rightful place as a classic piece of cinema.                                                             Seconds lies squarely at the intersection of post-McCarthyist paranoia, revisited themes of ‘60s European art cinema and The Twilight Zone. At the same time it largely predicted the crises of masculinity and nightmarish interpretations of the counterculture yet to come in Hollywood cinema.                                                                                                   Seconds, like few other films, questions our fundamental values – it points a chilling finger in the direction of own superficiality, and dissolves our notions of the sanctity of identity with a disquieting ease.                                                                                                              Frankenheimer’s direction of this film, both in style and intent, puts him squarely in the same company as Stanley Kubrick and Orson Welles. Seconds also features a brilliantly innovative opening sequence by Saul Bass, dazzling cinematography of the legendary James Wong Howe, disorientating ambient orchestrations by Jerry Goldsmith and a performance by Rock Hudson which is often regarded as his greatest.

Seconds will crawl under your skin and stay with you long after the film’s end.

trailer:

A still from Joel Frankenheimer's 1966 film "Seconds."

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links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seconds_(film)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060955/?ref_=nv_sr_6

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/seconds/#in-theaters

reviews:

http://www.girlsgunsandghouls.com/seconds.html

http://www.filmschoolrejects.com/features/seconds-john-frankenheimers-forgotten-60s-masterpiece.php

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/movies/2013/08/criterion_collection_edition_of_seconds_directed_by_john_frankenheimer_and.html

http://www.ioncinema.com/news/disc-reviews/criterion-collection-seconds-blu-ray-review

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/movies/2013/08/criterion_collection_edition_of_seconds_directed_by_john_frankenheimer_and.html

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IN COLD BLOOD

In_cold_blood_02 1967 – Richard Brooks

“I’d like to apologize, but… who to?”

 

synopsis:  

Two drifters plan to rob but end up murdering a family in rural Kansas in 1959.

cam_03 In Cold Blood still remains the benchmark by which all true-crime films are matched.There are no heroics or wild police chases, just a realistic look at the crime, the capture, and the executions which inspired the novel by Truman CapoteIn Cold Blood is the stuff of nightmares, but this is no dream – these events really happened in 1959.                                                                                                                                   The fact that much of the filming took place in the actual locations where the crime took place, even inside the very house where the multiple homicides occurred, add additional depth. The austerity of blue collar life in the Mid West of the 1950’s is splendidly evoked as the two criminals move through a rolling montage of cheap hotels and diners, bus stations and interstates.                                                                                                             Richard Brooks’ restrained direction, Conrad Hall’s exquisite black and white cinematography, Peter Zinner’s stark yet poetic editing and Quincy Jones’s atmospheric jazz score produce a truly dark and compelling atmosphere. Stella performances from the two leads, Robert Blake and Scott Wilson, complete a profound character study of the killers.                                                                                                                                   Curiously, Robert Blake, the actor playing the condemned killer Perry, was the child actor who played the street urchin who accosts Humphrey Bogart in the beginning of The Treasure of Sierra Madre – that film is referenced several times in In Cold Blood. Furthermore In 2004, a much darker coincidence occurred when Robert Blake was ordered to stand trial for the real life murder of his wife.

trailer:

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links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Cold_Blood_(film)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061809/?ref_=nv_sr_1

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1010448-in_cold_blood/

reviews:

http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/in-cold-blood-1968

http://www.metacritic.com/movie/in-cold-blood

http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=EE05E7DF1730BF2CA6494CC2B7799B8D6896

http://voices.yahoo.com/movie-review-cold-blood-1967-starring-robert-blake-6464130.html?cat=2
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