Category Archives: Film

“THE LOVE OF A WOMAN”— Standing Up

“The Love of a Woman” (“L’amour d’une femme”)

Standing Up

Amos Lassen

Marie Prieur (Micheline Presle) is a young doctor who decides to settle down on Ushant, a remote island belonging to Brittany. It takes time but she is eventually accepted by the population. One day she meets André Lorenzi, (Massimo Girotti), a handsome engineer, and it is love at first sight. Life is wonderful for a while and André wants to marry her but only if she remains at home. Even with her strong feelings for André, Marie refuses to give up her vocation and the two lovers part.

Love of a Woman” is a beautiful film but it is quite sad. There are several depressing scenes and two funerals and even the scenes between lovers are painful. There is also a painful lack of communication between the lovers.

For Andre, a woman’s job is acceptable as long as she is without a man. However, when she gets married ,she is to become a housewife. The film is set in the fifties before woman’s lib and Marie who wants to reconcile her work and the love she feels for Andre. Marie’s job took the best of her, but it gave her independence, pride and self-assurance.

There’s a lovely scene when Marie has worked for hours through the night at the bedside of a sick girl who has finally, with the doctor’s help, begins to improve. Marie’s reward is great and this seals her acceptance at last into the community.

Marie has a problem to cope with in Andre Lorenzi with whom she falls in love but who as a macho Italian takes it for granted that once married Marie will be happy to give up work and devote herself to the chores of the housewife. There is a moment when Marie accepts this but changes her mind.

The film is rich in observation of human nature. There s a lot more here but I do not want to spoil the viewing experience so I will stop now.

Special Features include:

– High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition presentations of the feature, from materials supplied by Gaumont

– Original French mono audio (uncompressed LPCM on the Blu-ray)

– Optional English subtitles

In Search of Jean Grémillon, a feature-length documentary on the filmmaker from 1969, containing interviews with director René Clair, archivist Henri Langlois, actors Micheline Presle and Pierre Brasseur, and others

– Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Ginette Vincendeau

“DIRTY”— Out of Control Cops and Street Gangs

“Dirty”

Out of Control Cops and Street Gangs

Amos Lassen

“Dirty” is a film about corrupt cops in the Los Angeles Police Department’s anti-gang task force starring Cuba Gooding Jr. is Salim Adel, a nasty cop who harasses and humiliates white drivers in fancy cars who have gotten lost. He manually rapes the girlfriend of a teenage skateboarder and we hate him from the moment that we meet him. We follow Adel and his not-quite-so-hateful Mexican-American partner Armando Sancho (Clifton Collins Jr.) through an especially stressful day. Sancho is a former gang member who is so haunted by the shooting of an innocent bystander at a crime scene that he has premonitory flashes of the victim’s corpse coming back to curse him. Unbeknownst to Adel, he has decided to confess his crimes to Internal Affairs.

It seems that all of the cops are rotten, including their bosses, the thundering, authoritarian Captain Spain (Keith David) and his lieutenant (Cole Hauser). When the lieutenant asks the partners to remove a bag of heroin from the evidence room as part of a scheme that could make everybody rich, Adel jumps at the opportunity while Sancho has misgivings.

This operation is just an excuse for the movie to show the Los Angeles underworld, and competing black and Mexican hierarchies in the drug trade.

Sancho tells us in an introductory voice-over, the only thing separating gangbangers from the police is a badge. Chris Fisher directed this film that thrives on violence and obscenities.

As the film moves forward and we keep waiting for something to happen (as Sancho falls deeper into his moral crisis). We see how director Fisher thinks

how racial hostility arises, expresses itself, and passes through Los and tribal music highlights a crucial moment of desperation. The film is strange coming across as an inquisition of racial and authority conflict. The interesting side of the movie basically suggests that corrupt cops are no different to the drug dealing gangs on the streets while the uninteresting side is the styling. At first we are hooked by the similarities between cops and thugs and the film struggles to maintain your interest as it tries too hard to be something else.

“DONALD CRIED”— A Journey Back in Time

“Donald Cried”

A Journey Back in Time

Amos Lassen

With his grandmother died suddenly, Peter Latang returned to his hometown and there found his long lost, childhood friend, Donald Treebeck. Director Kris Avedisian’s story is an awkward reunion between two long-estranged friends that unearths a complex mix of guilt and shame in the one responsible for the estrangement.

When Peter (Jesse Wakeman) goes back to the industrial Northeastern town where he grew up for the first time in 20 years, he finds himself broke and without a rid and so he reluctantly turns his former best friend, Donald (Avedisian), an overgrown boy with no boundaries, for help. Donald is too happy to see Peter after years of trying to find him online and quickly offers to drive him everywhere but where he wants to go. Over the 24 or so hours that Donald and Peter spend together, as Peter both softens toward and gets infuriated by his old friend as Donald flip-flops between passive-aggressive violence and cringing compliance. The balance of power between the two keeps shifting back and forth giving viewers a sense of suspense that sometimes borders on mental and dangerous instability.

Peter gains an understanding of and sympathy for his old friend and is forced him to come to terms with the in the past. Slowly the encounters between the two men create a hard-earned intimacy that brings out the best in them both as they reconnect and share confidences.

There is plenty dark humor in this uncomfortable comedy Peter is a Manhattan banker whose job settling his grandmother’s estate is complicated by the loss of his wallet and then by a meeting with neighbor and former best friend Donald who refuses to leaves him alone. We see awkward exchanges, absurd encounters, and we sense bitterness and shame.

After briefly meeting with Kristen (Louisa Krause), the realtor he hired to sell his grandmother’s house (and on whom he harbors a decades-old crush on, despite pretending not to remember her), Peter turns to the only place he can for help with his daily tasks: Donald. This decision results in an immediately warm embrace from his old friend, a simple-minded fool with a shaggy beard and shaggier mullet whose life seems to be frozen-in-time.

Peter and Donald were partners until Peter, for ill-defined reasons, rejected his former life, cleaned himself up, and transformed into a high-finance snob. Donald also agrees to lend Peter some cash and we soon realize that there is a catch to the good that Donald does. Donald proceeds to force his friend — often against his will — to spend the day with him and what follows are embarrassments including a breakfast during which a run-in with a classmate quickly that becomes uneasy; a visit to Donald’s demeaning bowling-alley boss (Ted Arcidi); a meeting with a monotone buddy who doesn’t remember Peter fondly and then a journey to their abandoned-train-tunnel hangout spot, where they smoke weed, point an unloaded gun at each other, and reminisce about a time that was.

Throughout, Donald’s smiles and over-enthusiastic hugs show us his urgent longing to reconnect with Peter. Yet there is anger, frustration and hurt just beneath their under-control exteriors. In virtually every closeup, “Donald Cried” we sense suppressed emotion.

Donald is desperate for the approval of Peter who abandoned him for Wall Street pastures. As Donald, Avedisian has a sense of strangeness that he’s difficult to resist. Peter’s own messy feelings about a former self, and upbringing becomes the foil for Donald’s consistently sad, bizarre attempts to recapture a past that, on the face of it, doesn’t seem to have been that great in the first place.

The film keeps the viewer off-balance trying to figure out the dynamics of the relationship. Peter’s inconsistent responses to Donald move between affection, indulgence, irritation and anger and suggest an underlying guilt over having rejected his former friend so completely.

There are some awkward moments of discomfort here. Donald talks about how he fantasized about Peter as a rebel biker yet he comments on how his friend rather resembles a Jewish witch. With some minor secrets being revealed, we eventually realize that is Peter and not Donald who is the more emotionally stunted character. Both men are worthy of equal measures of pity and disdain but not anything more than that. We are once again reminded that like Thomas Wolfe stated, you can’t go home again.

“PRONOIA”— Stranded

“Pronoia”

Stranded

Amos Lassen

When a man (Stelio Savante) and a woman (Hannah Jane McMurray) are suddenly stranded in a fancy hotel because a thunderstorm does not permit makes travel, they decide to have a drink together at the hotel bar. There are no other hotel guests around. What is interesting here is that the man and woman are total strangers and each has no idea how to know what the other is thinking. Things become even more interesting when they learn via the TV in the bar of the disappearance of a high-ranking Pentagon official (Marston Allen). Just as the two strangers cannot read each other, neither can we read them and we can only wonder if the disappearance is somehow related to what is happening between them. 

“Pronoia” is obviously a mystery but as I watched, I had no idea of where it is going. Written and directed by Nick Efteriades, we find ourselves waiting out the storm in the hotel bar with the two strangers. We sense that there is seduction going on and that the TV announcement will affect their evening but everything is very mysterious. I cannot help but wonder if I am being manipulated by the director or the characters and the sense of mystery heightens on a second viewing. There is a sense of beauty here and the atmosphere created seems to determine how we understand what is going on.

I realize that I am being as mysterious as the film but please understand, I am guessing. I have been thrust into a plot I do not understand and am enjoying every moment.I do not remember ever seeing the word “pronoia” before and I assumed that since it is the title of the film, its meaning would come to light and it does in its own way. I learned that it is defined as the state of mind that is the opposite of paranoia. It refers to the idea that there is a conspiracy that is beneficial to those involved and adheres to the philosophy that the world is set up to secretly benefit people. Could that be what is going on here?

I feel the tension between the man and the woman that their alienation brings about but that tension also brings them together. The man is a total mystery and the more we see of him, the less we learn. We want him to share something about himself. The woman seems somewhat alien but beautiful and we sense her vulnerability or so we think. And then, little by little, the story takes shape. You may ask if this is satisfying? I must say that it is but you must be prepared for what you will see on the screen and in your mind’s eye. David Lynch comes to mind as does the late and great Frederico Fellini. I remember when I was a college student and Fellini’s “8 ½” was the range. The critics and moviegoers loved it but when asked what it meant, there was silence in most cases.

I have the idea that the short is to be developed into a full feature film and we get an idea of what we might expect. Let me stress that what I am writing here are my own opinions. I do not know the director nor have I seen any of his work before this. I have the impression that this short film is something of a test by which he can see if he is able to use a concept that he wants to expand later. Undoubtedly he was influenced by something he had seen or heard and it stayed in his mind as an idea to be used sometime. There is something about conspiracy or pronoia here and clues that will be dealt with in the feature film when it is made. Would I want to see it then? My answer is without question since I do not think that what I saw in the short will leave me anytime soon. I might add that repeated viewings throw light on the plot and we do reach the “aha” moment but there is still more to know.

“SHAG”— A Summer Party

“Shag”

A Summer  Party

Amos Lassen

During the summer of 1963, Carson (Phoebe Cates) is getting married to her boyfriend so her friends Melaina (Bridget Fonda), Pudge (Annabeth Gish) and Luanne (Page Hannah) take her to Myrtle Beach for one last irresponsible weekend in Zelda Barron’s “Shag”.

 

Set in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, we follow the adventures of four young women from Spartanburg who have been close friends through high school but who will be separated come fall by their different plans. Having told their parents they are on a tour of Confederate monuments, they secretly light out for the seaside resort of Myrtle Beach, where Luanne’s family has a summerhouse. By the end of their fling, half of Myrtle Beach has drunkenly trooped through the place, and almost everyone has been promisingly paired off.

The four teen-ager girls whose longing for adventure momentarily overcomes the caution instilled by sheltered upbringings. Luanne is a young woman who very reluctantly drops her defenses against the advances of Buzz (Robert Rusler), a charming lover boy. Melaina is intent on becoming a film star schemes to meet Jimmy Valentine (Jeff Yagher), a dumb teen-age singing idol who just happens to be one of the Sun Queen contest in which she delivers a speech from ”Gone With the Wind.” Pudge is shy and is with an equally shy future naval cadet named Chip (Scott Coffey), enters a dance contest. “Shag” is a nostalgic comedy of manners that makes fun of its teen-age innocent characters who are yearning for sophistication. Trouble starts at a party and continues through the rest of the film.

It is not surprising that over the weekend, one of the girls will fall in love, one will decide to go for her dream, one will decide not to marry the loser and the other finds out that she isn’t plain after all.

The actors in “Shag” are some of the best of the younger generation in Hollywood when the movie was made, and they treat their material with the humor and delicacy it deserves. Because we know what is going to happen in the time that the movie takes place is what I think makes it such an endearing film. In 1963, our president was assassinated, there was a war in Vietnam and the 60s were a time when we lost our innocence. Even so, life seemed very innocent back then. At one part in the girls innocently talk about erections and it comes across sweet. The characters aren’t deep here and those of us who lived through the 60s knew girls like those in the movies.

“THE LOVED ONE”— Dying in California

“The Loved One”

Dying in California

Amos Lassen

When “The Loved One” hit movie screens in 1965, people were outdone. Based on Evelyn Waugh’s book of the same name and adapted for the screen by Terry Southern and Christopher Isherwood, this is a movie that could never be made today. It was considered tasteless and offensive in its satire on the funeral business in California and I loved it. I recently watched the Blu ray release of this satire and I was even more certain as to why I loved a movie that the world hated.

It is not just about death, however. Director Tony Richardson takes on sex, greed, religion and mother love, as well. Robert Morse plays Dennis Barlow. a would-be poet who gets entangled with an unctuous cemetery entrepreneur (Jonathan Winters), a mom-obsessed mortician, Mr. Joyboy (Rod Steiger) and other bizarre characters played by such adept actors as John Gielgud, Robert Morley, Tab Hunter, Milton Berle, James Coburn and Liberace. The film was advertised as “the movie with something to offend everyone” and we easily see why. The story centers around the pomp and ceremony that comes with the daily operation of a posh mortuary and a climaxing idea by an owner of a Southern California cemetery of orbiting cadavers into space since we are running out of burial spaces on earth.

Dennis falls in love with the lady cosmetician (later promoted to embalmer) while making arrangements for his uncle’s burial. However, she (Anjanette Comer) is dedicated to her work and Whispering Glades Memorial Park. Jonathan Winters, in a dual role, is excellent both as the owner of Whispering Glades and his twin brother, who operates the nearby pet graveyard and is patron of a 13-year-old scientific whiz who invents a rocket capable of projecting bodies into orbit. While the film was promoted as being outrageous and offensive, I want to head in that direction. It is indeed offensive not just because of its theme or its insensitivity.

The way that some funeral rituals are practiced in some of the fancy cemeteries near Hollywood are naturally shocking and disturbing and they are vividly and vulgarly revealed shown here as commercial shams. The violent and undisciplined excessiveness of these funerals is seen in its morbid ribaldry. There is too much kidding around with corpses, too much joking in the embalming room, too many scenes of dead bodies and food. For believers, the travesties of the doctrine of the resurrection of soul is sure to offend. By using an obvious American, Robert Morse, in the role of the poet, who is a total dunce so as to offend the British, however, does not really work. John Gielgud is Sir Francis Hinsley, the loved one, the poet’s uncle who commits suicide and for whom burial is arranged. Rod Steiger is repulsive as the hideously epicene Mr. Joyboy, chief of the embalming room.

The novel on which the film is based is a short satire that was written after Waugh’s trip to Hollywood, where he attended a funeral at Forest Lawn and was struck by parallels between the pretensions of the movie industry and the lavish overproduction of the Los Angeles funeral business. The book is laced with the kind of acidly condescending sarcasm that is a British specialty, but Richardson chose to have made an American screenwriter, Terry Southern, the notorious author whose temperament and style were the antithesis of Waugh’s write the screenplay with British Christopher Isherwood, author of the stories that would inspire and who had been one of Evelyn’s Waugh’s chief literary rivals. What we get is a that is not sure what it is satirizing and being offensive. overstuffed satire that can’t make up its mind about what it’s satirizing because it’s so busy extending a middle finger to everyone watching. The film has quite a cult following despite its many problems.

The first half hourhour mocks America’s film industry, with Roddy McDowall as an unctuous studio executive at Megalopolitan Pictures and Jonathan Winters as a producer. It also parodies English class-consciousness, which is dutifully preserved by the L.A. ex-patriot conclave under the leadership of Sir Ambrose Ambercrombie (Robert Morley), who has been knighted for his services as an actor specializing in butlers and prime ministers. From that point on, the script deals with Dennis getting a job at a fancy pet cemetery called Happier Hunting Grounds. In the process, he becomes familiar with the A-list cemetery for humans, Whispering Glades, which is owned and operated by Reverend Wilbur Glenworthy (Jonathan Winters) in an ostentatious and quasi-religious style that exerts cult-like control over its employees.

Dennis falls in love with Aimee Thanatogenous (Anjanette Comer) but she is already in love with her boss, the facility’s chief embalmer, Mr. Joyboy. Unfortunately for her, Mr. Joyboy only has eyes for his corpse clientele and his aging mother (Ayllene Gibbons). In desperation, Barlow gives Aimee poems that he claims to have written himself but in fact has plagiarized from such well-known sources as Keats and Shakespeare. This mixes her up and so she seeks advice from a newspaper columnist, Guru Brahmin, whom she doesn’t know is really a gruff, cynical and perpetually soused reporter (Lionel Stander), who, when cornered in a bar, might just tell a desperate soul that killing oneself is a good option.

At Whispering Glades, Rev. Glenworthy is running out of burial space, and he conceives a plan to extract more profit from the land by converting it into retirement homes, emptying the graves by blasting their occupants into space. The rocketry will be provided by a child prodigy, 12-year-old Gunther Fry (Paul Williams). The first person to receive a space burial is, appropriately, an astronaut nicknamed “The Condor”, and his precedent-setting service is complicated by a web of deceit and blackmail.

There is not a boring moment in the film. There are subplots and twists and turns, some really good acting and really lousy acting. Instead of paying attention to what is going on, it is fun just to ignore the plot and let the offenses entertain and watch the actors trying so hard. The scenes with Mr. Joyboy and his gluttonous mother remind us of John Water. There are many \ cameos by famous actors (who are even listed as “cameo guest stars” in the opening credits). James Coburn is the immigration officer who stamps Barlow’s passport, Milton Berle is a wealthy Angeleno who wants his dog buried at Happier Hunting Grounds, Dana Andrews is a corrupt Army general. We see Liberace cleanly dressed and minus sequins as Whispering Glades’ “counselor”, gently advising the bereaved on coffins and funeral attire with the enthusiasm of a wedding planner. As each guest star appears, the film momentarily pauses as if boasting about the marquee names it managed to attract. But then the moment is over and… the film ends and Dennis Barlow returns to England a sadder man from his American adventures.

The special features include:

  • Trying to Offend Everyone: This 2003 featurette offers recollections of the film’s production by a scattered group of surviving participants, but it only hints at the film’s troubled history. Interviewees include Robert Morse, Anjanette Comer, Paul Williams, Haskell Wexler and Tony Gibbs, who is described as “supervising editor”, although the film’s editing credit is divided between Hal Ashby (future director of Being There) and Brian Smedley-Aston (a member of the editorial team on Performance).
  • Trailer

“STORMY MONDAY”— A Gangster Movie

“STORMY MONDAY”

A Gangster Movie

Amos Lassen

In 1988, Mike Figgis made his feature directorial debut with “Stormy Monday”, a noir-influenced gangster movie. From the beginning we are disoriented. The action takes place in a small British town, but one that for some unknown reason is holding a festival celebrating “America Week” where a character from the U.S. is running for office and we see that this makes no sense. However, instead of clarifying the setting and plot, the story moves forward introducing new elements and characters one after another with no indication of how these pieces fit together to make a coherent story.

The plot is presented through casual, almost throwaway snippets woven into the film and there are mumbled lines by the characters. I wonder, as do other viewers. why we should bother to fit the pieces together, when there’s no indication of anything worthwhile in the picture. It comes down to a conflict between the character of Cosmo (Tommy Lee Jones) and a local nightclub owner (Sting), a conflict whose development over the course of the film is confusing and pointless.

It could well be that the screenplay left the “intrigue” plot sketchy in order to focus on the emotional battles being played out in the film. Although her role in the plot is never adequately explained, Melanie Griffith appears to be the centerpiece of the film, with her relationship to Brendan (Sean Bean) putting her in a situation where she must make a decision where her loyalty lies: with Cosmo for whom she works, or with Brendan, her new lover.

Then a light goes off and I realize that “Stormy Monday” is about the attitudes that men strike when they feel in control of a situation and the way they feel down when someone else takes power. “Stormy Monday” is also about symbols. It takes place mostly near the seedy waterfront of Newcastle, where a crooked Texas millionaire is trying to run a nightclub owner out of business so he can redevelop the area with laundered money. The movie uses a lot of symbols of America: the flag, stretched large and bold behind a podium.

American businessman Frank Cosmo fills the city with stars and stripes, parades, pictures of Reagan, a giant Pepsi bottle, and a whole lot of hand shaking deals. We know he is up to something but have no idea what it is. We meet Frank’s girlfriend-cum-accomplice Kate who’s lined up to do a “job” for Frank but before we know what it is, she backs out of it and starts an affair with Brendan (Sean Bean), a janitor at the Key Club.

STORMY MONDAY, Tommy Lee Jones, 1988. ©New Yorker Films

The Key Club is a jazz spot run by Finney who rejects a business overture from Frank. Brendan, now charged with ushering around a wacky Polish combo called the Krakow Jazz Ensemble helps Finney against Cosmo’s henchmen. Even without understanding what is going on, we see that this is a film with heart although we are never sure why.

Special Features include:

– High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations

– Original stereo audio (uncompressed on the Blu-ray Disc)

– Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

– Audio commentary with Mike Figgis, moderated by critic Damon Wise

– New video appreciation by critic Neil Young, and a “then and now” tour of the film’s Newcastle locations

– Theatrical trailer

– Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jacey

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring new writing by critic Mark Cunliffe

“RE-ANIMATOR”— Movie Mayhem

“RE-ANIMATOR”

Movie Mayhem

Amos Lassen

“Re-Animator” is one of the most wildly popular horror movies of all-time and now Stuart Gordon’s classic is back in a new special Blu-ray restoration and packed with special features. Medical student Dean Cain advertises for a roommate and finds one in the form of Dr. Herbert West. Initially a little eccentric, it soon becomes clear that West has some very strange theories one of which is about the possibility of re-animating the dead. It’s not long before Dean finds himself under West’s influence, and deeply involved in a series of ghoulish experiments which threaten to go wildly out of control.

The film is based on H.P. Lovecraft’s classic horror story “Herbert West – Re-animator” and stars Jeffrey Combs who gives a fantastic performance as the deranged West. The film war released in 1985, at the height of the ’80s’ spate of horror comedies and it’s irreverence stripped away the seriousness that had been part the horror genre and replaced it with a willful sense of the comic.

The humor here relies on verbal asides and the sheer absurdity of its situations. It is a very gory movie, so much so that producer Brian Yuzna didn’t even bother to submit it to the MPAA ratings board and instead released it unrated. The gore we see is both repellent and utterly intriguing.

West is a nerd gone terribly who has since become a cult figure around the world. We see him holed up in his basement laboratory, injecting glowing green re-agent fluid into a dead cat and realize that he represents science gone bad.

He is determined to defeat death by finding a way to get past the “6- to 12-minute barrier” after which someone cannot be successfully revived. However, he is so resolute and calculating in his desire that any sense of moral purpose does not exist. He immediately gets on the wrong side of the fictional Miskatonic Medical School’s resident genius, Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale), whose ideas West openly disputes in class. West is so sure of himself that he can’t help but verbally (and, later, physically) assault those who might stand in his way, intellectually or otherwise.

Dan becomes involved in West’s experiments, despite the pleadings of his girlfriend, Megan (Barbara Crampton), who also happens to be the daughter of the straight-laced dean of the medical school, Alan Halsey (Robert Sampson). Dan is the movie’s conscience and is the only “normal” character in the movie. Director Gordon refuses to let anything be off-limits. He constantly increases the pitch of his movie using ludicrous situation after ludicrous situation. Things really get going when West decapitates Dr. Hill with a shovel after Hill tries to steal his re-agent formula, then reanimates his head and headless body. This leads to some ghoulishly comedic moments as the decapitated Dr. Hill combines West’s re-agent research with his own development of a laser drill used for lobotomies to create an army of reanimated corpses under his control. I will not even mention the sickest scene in the film that is audacious and tasteless but so much fun.

“Re-Animator” is not for everyone. Those who are easily offended, have weak stomachs, or is not willing to find humor in gruesome scenarios should not see this.

Special Features include:

– 4K restorations of the Unrated and Integral versions of the film

– High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation

– Original Stereo 2.0 and 5.1 Audio

– Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

– Digipak packaging featuring newly commissioned artwork by Justin Erickson

– Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by writer Michael Gingold

Re-Animator – the original 1991 comic book adaptation, reprinted in its entirety

– Unrated version [86 mins]

– Audio commentary with director Stuart Gordon

– Audio commentary with producer Brian Yuzna, actors Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Bruce Abbott, and Robert Sampson

Re-Animator Resurrectus – documentary on the making of the film, featuring extensive interviews with cast and crew

– Interview with director Stuart Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna

– Interview with writer Dennis Paoli

– Interview with composer Richard Band

– Music Discussion with composer Richard Band

– Interview with former Fangoria editor Tony Timpone

– Barbara Crampton In Conversation with journalist Alan Jones for this career-spanning discussion

– Deleted and Extended Scenes

– Trailer & TV Spots

” A WOMAN, A PART”— Having It All and Dissatisfied

“A Woman, A Part”

Having It All and Dissatisfied

Amos Lassen

Maggie Siff is actress Anna Baskin. She has a role in a hit show, but feels that the writers aren’t doing right by her character. She is also dealing with the end of a bad relationship with an addict, and a some addiction issues (to prescription drugs) of her own. In many ways, she is the stereotypical famous person who has everything and yet finds herself dissatisfied.

Writer/director Elisabeth Subrin brings us a film that unfolds without much narrative structure, and feels distant and meandering at times. Anna, a mid-40s actress is tired of her empty role in a sitcom and comes home from Los Angeles to New York for a reunion with several former acting friends. Upon her return to New York, she flushes a bottle of pills down the toilet and takes an air mattress from the closet but does not inflate it giving us a hint about how deflated she is herself.

When she first appears in New York this time, it’s at a birthday party of a friend, Kate (Cara Seymour), whose reaction to seeing her is a mix of excitement and anxiety. We learn that Kate harbors some resentment for Anna believing that she used their stage show ten years ago. Anna’s sense of situational irony says a good deal about her. She uses her financial success as a source of condescension toward others who would ask about her work in good faith. During a night of drunken karaoke between Anna and Isaac (John Ortiz), another buddy, we see that even though they are each smiling on the outside, they are hurting on the inside as they realize they’ll never be able to recapture their youth.

The film explores middle age as a time of attachment, loss, anger, envy, and guilt. Anna has mysterious autoimmune disease which has drained all her energy and caused her to sink into depression. She has been taking drugs for the disease and is hooked on them. She has reached a point where she wants to quit acting. Her manager Leslie (Khandi Alexander) suggests that she take some time off to consider the possible consequences of a lawsuit and the end of her career if she were to break her five-year contract and so she goes to New York City where she was once a member of a 1990s experimental theatre troupe, trying to work out some closure on her conflicted past. As Anna, Maggie Siff skillfully captures and conveys the emotional vibrations of a woman in a tricky transitional period in her life and career. Oscar is an ex lover who is married with a kid, but his relationship is shaky. He’s excited to have Anna around again, but you wonder if it’s real friendship he’s after, or the attention she can bring to his career that is not moving forward.

The revolves around the more general themes of addiction, gentrification, sexism, burnout, and plot friendship. Director Subrin looks at women in the entertainment industry, and the demands and expectations that constrain them. The title of the film suggests that Anna is not just the part she plays, yet she seems to have trouble getting away from it. The works as a critique of the film industry and Anna represents every female actress of a certain age searching for meaningful work. Anna’s opposite, Nadia (Dagmara Dominczyk), has given up her own work to be the rock of her family; her husband, Oscar, depends on her to be the stable one at home. But Nadia doesn’t want to be the rock anymore. We see a kind of respect for the characters and their flaws in this small film that explores gender as one woman tests her own self-perception.

“PULSE”— A Strange Computer Virus

“PULSE”

A Strange Computer Virus

Amos Lassen

 

A strange computer virus is spreading through Japan and it shows grainy images of people senselessly mulling around their computers and asking “Would you like to meet a ghost?” Soon doors were sealed with red tape and the population starts to drop sharply. A group of young people get wise to this strange phenomenon and attempt to track down its origin. Soon smoke begins to loom on the horizon and city streets are empty.



“Pulse” uses the trappings of horror movies to give a meditation on urban loneliness. It’s an apocalyptic ghost story with some strange images and a surprising turn toward the end. This virus seems tooffer a portal to the afterlife (“Would you like to meet a ghost?”), with deadly consequences for the residents of Tokyo. One of director Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s achievements is to present a distinctive and disquieting picture of Tokyo.

“Pulse” follows two intersecting storylines. One involves a young woman (Kumiko Aso) who works at a plant nursery in a high-rise building, whose investigation of a colleague’s suicide leads her to some very dark places. The second story follows a computer-illiterate student (Haruhiko Kato) who teams with a female geek who’s researching paranormal phenomena on the Internet.

These characters encounter mysterious and frightening images on their computer screens (and, sometimes on their TVs). The pictures are linked to various disappearances, as victims hide themselves in rooms sealed with red tape, then melt into walls and leave behind only a smudgy residue. The sequences are effective in their restraint; there is no shock scenes or gore.

Director Kurosawa is less interested in tying up loose ends than in creating a sense of melancholy and depicting psychological states like dislocation. In “Pulse,” characters ponder the terrifying possibility that the afterlife is one of eternal isolation, which reflects their own sense of estrangement. This is an intriguing notion, but Kurosawa works in roundabout ways, which some viewers will find far too slow and repetitive.

“Pulse” opens with the strange suicide of a young man, leaving his 3 friends to ask the usual question of why he did it. No sooner does they begin investigating the death then they begin experiencing strange events of their own. Meanwhile, across town, college student Kawashima decides he should try the “Internet” after hearing so much about it. However, his first experience is a bad one, as the first web page that pops up on his computer screen is one that inquires, “Do you want to see a real ghost?” Spooked, Kawashima shuts off the computer, but the computer has a mind of its own, and begins turning on by itself, connecting to the Internet, and returning to the same spooky website over and over again. We ask the questions as to why are people suddenly disappearing all over the country and who is going around sealing doors with red tape?

Kurosawa creates a intriguing and frightening “straight” horror film with an underlying theme of the loneliness prevalent in modern Japanese culture. This is the world we know, but it is suddenly completely different. There is a hopeless look and feel to the film from the very beginning and it continues until the bitter end. Everything we see seems to be in the shadows even if it is day or night.

Despite the presence of technology, the people are always alone, even when they’re among friends. The movie posits the question: Are we really still “connected” to our fellow human beings anymore? The film answers that we are not. With the growth of technology, we’re actually more isolated.

 

Every shot and sequence is covered from head to toe in doom and gloom, and phantoms easily and effortlessly appear out of every corner and every patch of shadow. The mise-en-scene in “Pulse” is brilliant and breathtaking without fantastical or magical backgrounds. Because this is the world we know, but not the world we know, and this is very unsettling.

There are phantoms who are in effect definitions of the word. They seem to quiver and slink and quite literally move in disjointed, “inhuman-like” ways. The coming and going of the phantoms are effective, and each time they appear, it is frightening. There is one particularly good scene where a character is inside a loud arcade, only to suddenly realize that he’s utterly alone. How it happened is a mystery to him as well as to us.

The film has global impact in that we see that the problems of our characters are the problems of the world. Many horror movies are so limited in scope that it’s sometimes difficult to sit through 90 minutes of our heroes trying to convince the world that “something evil” is out there. The world of “Pulse” is presently being invaded by beings from another dimension, and as a result there is a worldwide ripple affect as everyone begins to experience similar events. Slowly but surely, the world starts to thin out, but not in the loud and splashy way you expect. Like most of “Pulse” even the end of the world is quiet and unassuming. There are none of the usual horror film theatrics, no slashers, no blood and no fangs yet this is one of the scariest films I have ever seen.

Kawashima’s story runs parallel to that of the three friends, and they seem unrelated at first, but eventually merge in the end. The film is moody and spiritually terrifying. It delivers existential dread along with its frights. Setting his story in the burgeoning Internet and social media scene in Japan, Kurosawa’s dark and apocalyptic film foretells how technology will only serve to isolate us as it grows more important to our lives.