Category Archives: Film

“TRASHOLOGY”— “The Bowels Of Cinema Just Got An Enema”

trashology poster“Trashology”

“The Bowels Of Cinema Just Got An Enema”

Amos Lassen

I could not have found a better title for this review than the film’s tagline; it is absolutely perfect. “Trashology” is “Pink Flamingos” meets “The Crypt” and it is one of the most shockingly delightful offensive gross-out comedies. It is a satire that pokes fun at the genres of sleaze and bad taste.

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The majority of female characters in this movie are played by men in drag. There’s also tons of crazy, campy, completely over-the-top humor that winks directly at gay audiences.

Trash Cinema is a dying subgenre of film that hasn’t been addressed in quite a while. But lo, it is back and with a fury thanks to Brian Dorton. and Douglas Conner, I jumped at the opportunity to review it. If you can, imagine the most twisted episode of “Strangers with Candy” you’ve ever seen John Waters, and stir in some Troma. That is what “Trashology” does.

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It is an anthology made up of three short films. But first, we meet Tracy (Laura Lee Black), a middle aged woman going to college to become the next underground Trash filmmaker. After giving her professor oral sex for arriving late for class, she finds herself with a “Trashology” book full of stories that feature sex, violence, and just about every bodily fluid imaginable.

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In the first short, “The Vat” we meet Beatrice (Jenny Coulter), a 65 year old cranky, nicotine addicted spitfire and Laura (Rodney Horn) a grandmother type with a delightful, mean spirited sense of humor. The duo are met by religious fanatic Claudia (Angie Keeling) who is really really angry that she got ripped off at 25 cent Banana Wednesday. As the day goes on, there is a fight between the three of them and they shoot Claudia. They decide to bury her in oatmeal but guilt gets the better of them and they bring her back to life via a Ouija Board. That is when the problems really start to happen; she does not come back the same person she left as. Now she is a horny nymphomaniac that uses the family supper as her bathroom, and will pleasure herself with anything available. “The Vat” features friendships that only Satan’s “geriatric grandmother” could relate to or anyone with a parent over the age of 50. The characters are over the top and reminded me of The Golden Girls but on crack.

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In “Big Debbie” as we meet a rather large woman in her wedding dresses crying as she is walking down the street holding snack cakes. Debbie (Rodney Horn) has just been stood up on her wedding day. She meets a young man on the street that offers her a shower back at his place to clean up. When she arrives at his apartment, his friend is waiting for her and the twosome plan to use her for some rather kinky sex. When one of the two men ends up dead, Debbie is forced to get rid of the body. Little does she know but an angry lesbian (Rachel Stout) bent on revenge has seen her and wants to get some justice of her own. Big Debbie” features the fetish known as ‘squashing’. As I have been told over and over, it is a thing! Yet that is just the start of this sick little puppy because poor Debbie goes through some strange stuff and thankfully comes through only slightly more damaged than she began.

“Inglorious Bitches” is about a pair of female vigilantes who discover an app on their phones that lets them track down and murder sex offenders. They take their love of killing people and turn it into cause for killing people by going after sex offenders. Imagine taking a bat covered with spikes and ramming it up someone’s bottom until he is dead! Well anyway the characters in this segment are so twisted and wonderful. Actually there isn’t one badly written or poorly acted character in this collection of filthy thoughts and filthy jokes.

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This most certainly is not a Lifetime movie. It is filled with lowbrow humor that pokes fun at society and at the expense of humanity. This movie is hilarious and brilliantly sick with humor.

It is wicked sick how all the characters relate to each other in all three stories and this shows director Brian Dorton’s love and honest passion for this genre. This is John Waters for 2012. He should be very proud.

Bonus Features Include:

  • Audio Commentary with Director Brian Dorton, Producer Douglas Conner, and Jesus Terán of Slasher // Video
  • Deleted and Alternate Scenes
  • Big Debbie (Original demo)
  • Photo Gallery
  • The Ferrett
  • Kill Cecile Vol. 1 (Short Film)
  • Sex, Lies, and Melissa (Short Film)
  • Smokers Anonymous (Short Film)
  • Crazy Fat Ethel (Original Demo Trailer)
  • Trashology Official Trailer
  • Trashology Teaser Trailer

“PARTY GIRL”— Past Her Prime

party girl poster

“PARTY GIRL”

Past Her Prime

Amos Lassen

Angélique Litzenburger (playing herself) is a 60 year old dance-club hostess and former stripper sits at a bar sipping a drink and tells her younger co-workers that she was a superstar. Now even though she is way past her prime, she still parties as hard as she once did in her youth but now there aren’t any clients picking up the tab. The only one who is still fascinated by her is Michel (Joseph Bour) and even he has stopped coming into the club regularly. She goes to look for him and finds him at his house in the small suburban town on the French & German border. She begs him to come back so that she can survive.  He refuses too and tells her that he loves her and proposes.

This was not exactly what she wanted to hear but her options are few and she accepts it. Angélique moves out of the Club and into Michel’s home and as the preparations for the wedding get underway all of Michel’s friends are happy for him. However, she goes back to the bar and tells her former workmates that even with her colored past, she cannot even consider physical contact with Michel and has been telling him that she is saving herself for their wedding night.

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Angélique Litzenburger plays a fictionalized version of herself and her children are also played by her real-life children too. She does not shy away from portraying herself as a self-absorbed reckless good-time girl who never allowed her children to either get close to her or in fact interfere with her constant partying. Even with her relentless selfishness there is an element of vulnerability that still makes us sympathetic [a bit] to her predicament. If this had fiction it still would have been compelling but knowing the real situation makes this quite an experience.

The film won the Camera d’Or award at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival is an unusual docudrama and is based on an idea by Samuel Theis (who co-wrote and co-directed with Marie Amachoukeli-Barsacq and Claire Burger). Theis plays himself along with his brother Mario Theis and sisters Séverine and Cynthia Litzenburger.  Angélique is his mother and this is her story.

We see problems in the happily-ever-after.  When Angélique lights up during dinner with Michel’s friends he objects but she won’t back down.  She flirts with a young man at a German-Franco friendship parade and refuses to go home after a day out with the family.  She confesses to her old friends that she shuts down sexually with Michel (he’s been led to believe she’s waiting for their wedding night).  When Sam arrives from Paris, it is his job to find a venue for the wedding she’s purportedly been planning.

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Angélique is an unusual character and she dominates the screen.  The interactions among her mismatched family are warm but not conflict free.  The filmmakers and their real life cast involve us in not only the family dynamics but also in watching for clues as to just who is most like their mother. 

“DANCING IN JAFFA”— Dancing Together

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“Dancing in Jaffa”

Dancing Together

Amos Lassen

Renowned ball-room dancer Pierre Dulaine takes his program, Dancing Classrooms, back to his city of birth, Jaffa with plans to teach Jewish and Palestinian Israelis to dance and compete together. The film proves that dancing is a healing force capable of turning an enemy into a friend.

Pierre Dulaine is a teacher and former four-time champion in ballroom dancing who was born in Jaffa to an Irish father and a Palestinian mother. The family left Israel in 1948 (the year Israel became a nation) when he was four years old and moved to the United States. The hatred and misunderstanding that continues to make Israeli and Palestinian children enemies rather than friends bothers him a great deal and he believes that dancing is a universal language that can bring youth together.

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He returns to Jaffa with hopes of teaching dancing and modeling respect to Jewish and Israeli youth in a 10-week course in dancing. He tries to find students from different schools to participate in the program with the idea of having Israeli (Jewish) boys and girls dance together at their school, while the Israeli Palestinian boys and girls dance together at their school. Then after a few weeks, he combines the classes with a Jewish student dancing with a Palestinian student.

From the very beginning there were problems. Boys and girls in both cultures (orthodox aspects of both Islam and Judaism) are not supposed to touch each other and some of the kids have never even spoken to someone from another school. Some of the Jewish boys refuse to look in the eyes of the Palestinian girls and immediately run from the program.

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Director Hilla Medalia shows how the kids perk up when Yvonne Marceau, Pierre’s dancing partner from New York, arrives in Jaffa to encourage them. At that point the film follows the impact of Dulaine’s work on three students: Noor Gabai, a slightly chubby Palestinian girl who has no friends and who lives alone with her unemployed mother.  Her unhappiness is carried through to school where she often gets in trouble for being disruptive and a bully. At first she is not initially keen on the dancing lessons especially since none of the boys want to be her partner, but when Dulaine selects her to be part of the team to represent her school in the Competition they have been working towards, she somehow remarkably transforms into a totally different, and rather charming, young lady. 

Alaa Bubali is a quiet Palestinian boy whose large family lives in a poor section and Lois Dana is an open-minded and outgoing Jewish girl who becomes Alaa’s partner and befriends Noor as she discovers the joy of dancing.

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Granted that “Dancing In Jaffa” is a simplistic and sweet portrait of reconciliation between Jewish and Palestinian kids but it is important and any program that can begin to eradicate segregation, racial prejudice, and blind hatred needs our support and encouragement.

When Dulaine left Jaffa, Israel he was just 4 years old and at that time the majority of the Arab population were pushed out with the establishment of Israel. Those that remained became Palestinian Israelis. Sixty years on it is still a deeply divided city and Dulaine believes that through his program of teaching children to dance he can break through some of the political and cultural differences and bring a moment of unity that hopefully might last. He went to six local schools, all but one segregated by religion and asked for support for his program and he realizes early on that his task will not be an easy one. It is important for us to understand that he is asking children to dance with the ‘enemy’ (both the parents and the children themselves have deep reservations about, especially as it doesn’t just involve close social interactions but physical touching between the children).

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At the beginning Dulaine struggles to hide his sheer frustration— he seems to simply fail to convince many of the reluctant children of how much they would enjoy learning to dance if they would just at least try it. When Yvonne Marceau comes, however the children are enchanted her elegance and Dulaine tells the children that ‘you don’t have to marry everyone you dance with!’ He and Yvonne danced together for 35 years and they are just friends

As the weeks go by, we can see how this new activity will impact on their particular lives and we see  Dulaine’s success in that by the time it comes to name the children that will make up the teams, some of the unlucky ones who are so upset that they didn’t make the cut and demand to know why.

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At a local Community Hall the atmosphere teems with excitement as Palestinian mothers sit next to Jewish parents to watch their children dance with other children from other schools and other faiths Dulaine and good humor has turned these once reluctant and clumsy children into graceful dancers After having watched Dulaine struggle, we could not have predicted success like this. to break the children’s initial deep rooted resistance. We see that perhaps the hope for peace in the Middle East might just be with the children.

“THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINIS”— The Forces of Politics

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“The Garden of the Finzi-Continis” (“Il giardino dei Finzi Contini”)

The Forces of Politics

Amos Lassen

I remember vividly seeing this when it first came out and a conversation with a friend last night reminded me of it so I decided to have a look at 45 years later.

“The Garden of the Finzi-Continis” is a gorgeous film that deals with an ugly subject—the rise of Fascism and anti-Semitism in Italy but it is also about a young man desperately in love with a woman that he can’t have, even though they have been the best of friends since they were children. We see how unrequited love can hurt. This is a story of how our own desires can lead us to self-destructive and stupid behavior. On a larger scale it is the story of lost innocence. Director Vittorio De Sica captures the extent to which our youthful pursuits seem like the whole universe to us when we are young, until larger events sweep us away and bring a jarring awareness of the world outside our own hearts.

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Giorgio (Lino Capolicchio) is a young man from a middle class Jewish family in Ferrara, Italy as all around him Fascism grows. He and his friends are able to avoid it for the most part, for a while. His father is so oblivious to the coming threat that he is actually a member of the Fascist party. Giorgio meets regularly with a wide circle of friends to play tennis, many of whom are much wealthier than he. Jews have been barred from the regular tennis clubs, so Giorgio and his friends meet at the walled estate owned by the Finzi-Contini family. The Finzi-Continis are wealthy and sophisticated, and seem to live in an entirely different world from the one Giorgio and his friends inhabit. His father says that the Finzi-Continis “don’t even seem Jewish.”

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Giorgio is desperately in love with Micol Finzi-Contini (Dominique Sanda), whom he has known since they were children. Through flashbacks we see how Giorgio used to wait outside the walls of the estate, hoping for a glimpse of Micol, and how the two became fast friends in their younger days. Now, however, things have changed, and Micol coldly rebuffs any show of affection from Giorgio. Instead she carries on an almost perfunctory affair with Bruno Malnate (Fabio Testi), a man she claims to despise as too vulgar, crude, and leftist for her tastes.

Outside the garden walls the Jews of Ferrara soon feel the squeeze of Mussolini’s Fascists. It starts slowly, with small indignities such as crank telephone calls and no more hired help and by the end of the movie Italian soldiers are hunting down and rounding up the Jews of Ferrara for a journey that is a one-way trip. While this is important it is not the main focus of the wake the Finzi-Continis from their contentment and illusory isolation. It serves also to shake Giorgio into the realization that the world stops for no man, even if he is recovering from the wounds of his first true love.

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The film moves slowly like a dream and takes us into Giorgio’s world. At first we are not impressed by the visuals we see but nonetheless they are real and enveloping, and we are absorbed into pre-war Italy before we know it. Director De Sica was able to get convincing, sincere performances from his actors and they draw us into the emotional reality of the story as it unfolds in front of us. Giorgio’s story is very personal and I could not help but be emotionally drawn into it. Capolicchio is excellent as Giorgio, and brings the character to life in every situation— pining over Micol or railing against the injustices imposed by the Fascists. We see a portrait of the “angry young man,” stung by what he sees as an unfair world and spiteful fate.

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Dominique Sanda became an international star as a result of this film. Her beauty comes across as pure ice and the character she creates is both desirable and malicious. Micol demonstrates the casual cruelty that a rejected young man gets to know so well. Sanda’s Micol has just the right amount of affected steely harshness. Later in the film we see Micol’s arrogance and defiance when she very carefully yet pointedly corrects the Fascist operative who gets her name wrong. In the end it is probably Micol who has the greatest revelation and loss of innocence, as she realizes all that has been going on around her as she contented herself with played games. Sanda’s face is so expressive that she could have told the whole story without uttering a word.

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The garden is not an enclosed space but an enclosed state of mind. Eager for an afternoon of tennis, the young people ride into it on their bicycles one sunny Sunday afternoon. The Fascist government of Mussolini has declared the ordinary tennis clubs off limits for Italian Jews — but what does that matter, when there are tall stone walls that have faithfully guarded the Finzi-Contini family for generations?

Micol, the daughter, welcomes her guests and takes some of them a little tour pointing out a tree that is said to be five hundred years old and might even have been planted by the Borgias. If it has stood for all those years in this garden, she seems to believe, what is there to worry about in the world outside.

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Micol cannot quite love anyone, although she carries on an affair with a tall, athletic young man who is about to be drafted into the army. Thinking about what Giorgio’s father said about the Finzi-Continis—they are different because wealth and privilege and generations of intellectual and social position have bred them into a family as proud as it is vulnerable. The other Jews in the town react to Mussolini’s edicts in various ways: Giorgio is enraged; his father is philosophical. The Finzi-Continis hardly seem to know, or care, what is happening. They are above mere edicts; they chose to live behind their walls long before the Fascists said they had to do so. Director De Sica tells the story of the disintegration of the Jewish community in a small Italian town and as he does he has something to say about the meaning of the time., director De Sica merges his symbols with his story so that they evoke the meaning of the time. It was a time in which many people had no idea what was really going on. Giorgio’s younger brother who went to France to study learns about the German concentration camps and is horrified. There has been no word of them in Italy, of course. Italy in those final prewar years is painted by De Sica as a perpetual wait for something no one admitted would come: war and the persecution of the Jews.

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The walled garden of the Finzi-Continis symbolizes that waiting period. It seems to promise that nothing will change, and the Jews who live in the village seem to hold on to the apparent strength of the Finzi-Continis as assurance of their own power to survive.

We are never oriented to the garden—we have no idea of its size and because of that, unlike the Finzi-Continis, we cannot depend on it to hide us. De Sica uses this beautifully as we feel the unease of being  inside an undefined space, especially if we may need to hide or run. The ambiguity of the garden’s space is matched by an understated sexual ambiguity. Nothing happens overtly, but De Sica uses looks and body language to suggest the complex varieties of sexual attractions among his characters. When Micol is discovered by Giorgio with her sleeping lover, she does a most interesting thing. She covers him, not herself, and stares at Giorgio until he goes away. What we see here is that we cannot depend on anything because permanence is forbidden at this time in history. We are to feel what it is like to wait and this is quite trying because we know what ultimate outcome the characters will. De Sica is a genius in the way he set this up. He also creates a feeling of nostalgia for a lost time and place, but it isn’t the nostalgia of looking back. Rather this is the nostalgia of the time itself, when people still inhabited their world but could sense that it was slipping away, and they already missed what they had not yet lost.

“THE BLACK CAT”— Two Versions

the black cat fuldi

“The Black Cat”

Two Versions

Amos Lassen

The release of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat” contains two Adaptations, one by Sergio Martino and the other by Lucio Fulci. The story itself has been celebrated in numerous films over time of which the two most stylish are by Sergio Martino and Lucio Fulci.

Martino’s version is classic giallo. Teacher Oliviero (Luigi Pistilli) finds himself under suspicion for murder when one of his students and mistress is found brutally murdered. As more bodies start amass, Oliviero’s niece (Edwige Fenech) come for a visit and this brings added complications.

Fuldi’s “Black Cat”, on the other hand, begins when Scotland Yard Inspector Gorley (David Warbeck) is summoned to a sleepy English village to investigate the recent murder of a young couple. With no obvious signs of entry at the murder scene, Gorley is forced to start considering the possibility that his suspect may not be human. 

Now you can see these two films together on Blu-ray and in new 2K restorations from the original camera negatives.

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS:

-Brand new 2K restorations of the films from the original camera negatives

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

-Original Italian and English soundtracks in mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)

-Newly translated subtitles for the Italian soundtracks

-Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtracks

-Brand new interview with director Sergio Martino

-Dolls of Flesh and Blood: The Gialli of Sergio Martino – a visual essay by Michael Mackenzie exploring -Sergio Martino’s unique contributions to the giallo genre

-Stephen Thrower, author of Beyond Terror – The Films of Lucio Fulci, on The Black Cat

-Reversible sleeves featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin

-Limited Edition 80-page perfect-bound book featuring new writing on the films, Poe’s original story and more, illustrated with archive stills and posters

 

“THE KING AND I”— Beautiful on Blu Ray

the king and I

“The King and I”

Beautiful on Blu Ray

Amos Lassen

One of the best examples of stage-to-screen adaptation, “The King and I” is quite a show. However I must note that the 50th Anniversary release on Blu Ray has a major fault— the score! Has been trimmed. 20th Century-Fox spent lots of effort and money to bring this Rodgers and Hammerstein hit to the very wide CinemaScope 55 screen, and the various artists who worked on the project certainly put a stunning vision of the show up on that wide screen. Production and costume design are gorgeous, the orchestrations are beautiful and in magnetic stereo (re-engineered for Dolby 5.1) and the cast is simply perfect. At the last minute, the studio scrapped their original idea to road show the picture in 55mm, and some filmed numbers were dropped to shorten the overall length. This always hurt and it does not matter what the excuses for cutting are because it means that the show becomes incomplete. “I Whistle a Happy Tune”, “Western People Funny”, and maybe “My Lord and Master”, “Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?” and “I Have Dreamed’ have been cut in places.

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Widowed English schoolteacher Anna Leonowens (Deborah Kerr) travels to Siam after she is offered a position to tutor the children of the King (Yul Brynner). Once in Siam, Anna and the King clash on matters of politics, ethics and the heart…two very different individuals who manage to still find the very best in each other. This magical movie has never looked or sounded better.

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Extra features include the pilot episode of the “Anna and the King” TV series starring Samantha Eggar and Brynner (with optional commentary by Eggar); vintage performances from the “General Foods” Rodgers & Hammerstein TV tribute (Patricia Morison and Brynner). Several new featurettes and rare MovieTone news segments.

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The show premiered on stage in 1951 (and has been performed tens of thousands of times since) and it tells a timeless story about tradition vs. modernity, Eastern vs. Western culture and men vs. women. This story was first written as the first-hand account of Anna Leonowens’ experiences in Siam in the mid-19th Century, where she had been hired by King Mongkut to teach his many children, in his hopes to push Siam into the modern age. Deborah Kerr totally embodies the strong-willed but emotionally fragile young widow Anna Leonowens; she makes Anna into a character with whom we identify and sympathize. We are on her side with her in all disputes, from demanding that she be given her own house in which to stay as part of the original deal, to calling King Mongkut to task for enforcing double-standard sexual laws that were outdated and demeaning to women even at that time.

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Yul Brynner commands the screen in every scene he’s in. You simply cannot look away. His King Mongkut is someone who wants to change Siam for the better, yet struggles to cling to many of the same traditions that he slowly begins to realize is partly responsible for holding Siam back. His heartbreak by film’s end is emotionally gut wrenching. Brynner’s performance is brilliant and won him a very well deserved Oscar for Best Actor. Deborah Kerr gives a wide-ranged performance that spans all emotions throughout the course of this film. She was deservedly nominated for Best Actress.

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This film would have given us enough t to chew on just in the complex relationship between our two principals alone and there are two spellbinding subplots, one of the forbidden love between Tuptim (Rita Moreno) one of King Mongkut’s many wives, and Lun Tha (Carlos Rivas), and the visit by the British Ambassador Sir John Hay (Alan Mowbray) whom King Mongkut wants to impress with how civilized he, and the Kingdom of Siam, is. Then there is the “play within the play”—the hypnotic Siamese theater performance of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s epic American tale of oppression and cruelty, ”Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. Anna’s young son Louis (Rex Thompson) provides us with an effective sounding-board onto whom Anna reveals the kind of feelings about the situation that she cannot express to the King, a deeply conflicted man who agonizes at the prospect of losing centuries-old Siamese traditions, even as he expresses himself as one who wants to help his country modernize.

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The film has great period costumes in both Eastern and Western traditions, a huge, ornate set used for the Palace and great music. Add a wonderful cast and we see how it has endured for as long as it has and will continue to do so.

“IMMORAL TALES”— Four Erotic Stories

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“Immoral Tales”

Four Erotic Stories

Amos Lassen

Walerian Borowczyk’s portmanteau film. “Immoral Tales” brings us four erotic stories from different historical eras.” The Tide”, is set in contemporary times, and concerns a student and his young female cousin stranded on the beach by the tide, secluded from prying eyes. Fabrice Luchini as a 20-year-old boy using his seniority to impose his desires on his 16-year-old cousin (Lise Danvers). “Therese Philosophe” takes place in the nineteenth century, and concerns a girl (Charlotte Alexandra) being locked in her bedroom, where she contemplates the erotic potential of the objects contained within it. She becomes sexually worked up by the stations of the cross (and a mucky illustrated tract), before falling victim to a malicious vagrant.

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“Erzsebet Bathory” is a portrait of the sixteenth-century countess who allegedly bathed in the blood of virgins. Paloma Picasso rides into a Hungarian village and rounds up all the suitably pulchritudinous females for a ritualized sequence of bathing, frock ripping and eventual slaughter. She bathes in their blood before making love to her female squire, who then betrays her to the King’s men.

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“Lucrezia Borgia” is about an incestuous fifteenth-century orgy involving Lucrezia, her brother, and her father the Pope. This shows a carnival of power, corruption and hypocrisy as Lucrezia (Florence Bellamy), the Pope, and various holy lackeys indulge in cackling murder and blasphemous three-way fornication, while a preacher who denounces their regime is burnt at the stake for his troubles.

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The world we see is brutal and troubling world , a place where the urge to power and the sexual drive are hopelessly entwined; where authority is corrupt and murderous and innocence or righteousness is doomed. We see delight in perversity and an emphasis on anti-clericalism and a delight in the blasphemous. The film is incredibly seductive, a sensual world where everything is sexualized. The carefully chosen objects decorating his sets and locations are there to be stroked, fondled and played with; the elaborate costumes are there to be elaborately removed. There is little dialogue because it is the visual that takes precedence.

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Borowczyk is a bit playful – we sense a knowing smile on his face as if he knows we are watching his films. playing around his lips as the outrage hits home. Sexuality in his films is overwhelming and dangerous and often twisted, but it’s also natural and human and obviously a source of immense pleasure. Often he intercuts his scenes of carnality with on-looking animals and uncaring nature, as if they are sitting in judgment, wondering how we let something so simple get so messed up. We too sit in judgment.

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Special features include:

-New high definition digital transfers of two versions of the feature, the familiar four-part edition and the original five-part conception including the short film The Beast of Gévaudan (which later became the feature The Beast)

-Uncompressed Mono 2.0 PCM Audio

-Optional English subtitles

-Introduction by Borowczyk expert Daniel Bird

-Love Reveals Itself, a new interview program featuring production manager Dominique Duvergé-Ségrétin and cinematographer Noël Véry

-Obscure Pleasures: A Portrait of Walerian Borowczyk, a newly edited archival interview in which the filmmaker discusses painting, cinema and sex

-Blow Ups, a visual essay by Daniel Bird about Borowczyk’s works on paper

-Theatrical trailer

-Reversible sleeve featuring Borowczyk’s own original poster design

-Illustrated booklet containing new writing on the film by Daniel Bird and an archive piece by Philip Strick

“VAN MORRISON: ANOTHER GLORIOUS DECADE”– -The Story Continues — Under Review Part 2

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“Van Morrison: Another Glorious Decade”

The Story Continues – Under Review Part 2

Amos Lassen

After he had been on hiatus for several years, Van Morrison suddenly reappeared in the late nineteen seventies Van Morrison reappeared. He had gone from being one of the big stars in rock and roll and while he was gone music moved to a new place. His return required transformation and he managed to do just that— while je as motivated he was also “garrulous and confrontational”. In the following years, Van Morrison was on a journey and he wanted to find independence as artist and explore spirituality in his music. This film chronicles that journey.

The film is made up of rare archival material, live and studio footage and brand new interviews with many of those who worked with Van across the decade that this journey took and we get a peek into the world of a musician who is very private. What we see is both surprising and enlightening.

“THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO”— The 1980s: Drugs, Sex and Being Weird

the last days of disco

“The Last Days of Disco”

The 1980s:  Drugs, Sex and Being Weird

Amos Lassen

“The Last Days of Disco” looks at the “last days” at a disco palace, where drugs, sex and weirdness ran rampant. The story focuses on a group of friends who frequent the disco and each other. All the characters are searching for something to make their lives more fulfilling— some for everlasting love and some are just want something different. As the disco is closed, they all wonder can disco ever really be dead?

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Set in Manhattan during the 1980s, Charlotte (Kate Beckinsale) is a domineering and highly opinionated graduate of Hampshire College who convinces her socially inept classmate Alice (Chloe Sevigny) to room in a cramped railroad apartment with Holly (Tara Subkoff). Then she introduces her to the dynamics of dating and fitting in at a fashionable disco. Soon Alice finds herself testing herself in relationships with Tom (Robert Sean Leonard), a lawyer; Des (Chris Eigeman), a manager at the disco; and Josh (Matt Keeslar), a greenhorn prosecutor in the Manhattan DA’s office. While Charlotte explores a romantic relationship with Jimmy (Mackenzie Astin) who works at an ad agency, Alice struggles to move ahead in the publishing industry.

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Writer-director Whit Stillman leaves nothing unsaid as the characters talk about dating, disco, sex, work, play, sanity, hymns, drugs, ethics, and much more.The young advertisers, lawyers, editorial assistants, and nightclub managers we meet here belong to precisely the sort of social milieu which it has long been fashionable to talk about. This Gen-X cynicism practically dominated popular culture in the United States. A pervading attitude in those days was to regard money and those who had an abundance of it with skepticism and, in more extreme cases, contempt.

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The characters receive ample allowances from their parents, earn substantial incomes at an early age, frequent expensive and exclusive nightclubs., and say without a trace of self-awareness or irony that “sending all your shirts out for laundering” is “a great moment in life.” The characters who are defined by their privilege as much as by their apparent obliviousness about the implications of it, are not so vapid or self-absorbed after all, or in any case pretty sympathetic. They’re neither condescendingly skewered nor carelessly romanticized—rather, while they are gently mocked they are also loved.

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The film takes disco music, as well as the fleeting subculture as its object of wide-eyed study and reclamation, and it does this with intelligence. Josh, a manic assistant district attorney in his 20s, considers himself “a loyal adherent to the disco movement,” which he sees as something of a social revolution.

What I find interesting here is that pop-culture scholar and historians will tell you is that disco music and disco clubs were heavily tied to gay culture in the late ’70s, creating a safe space for marginalized voices—black, queer, transgender, etc.—to meet, mingle, and dance outside the confines of the heteronormative status quo. The irony that we see here is that it was when the straight, white middle-class began crowding out the clubs that the “movement” became just another co-opted product, which, importantly, is the group the film follows through to the end of the era. People who felt like they’d stumbled into something exclusive and cool were hopelessly ignorant of the scene and are those who effectively ruined it. There is no accusation and we get a gently damning, portrait of a very particular period in pop culture history a brief time when yuppies were cool and got into cool clubs.

I see the movie as a look at privilege that so many were not privy to. It is not a perfect movie but it is totally interesting.

“SHORT SKIN”— A Problem

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“Short Skin” (“I dolori del giovane Edo”)

A Problem

Amos Lassen

Ever since childhood Edoardo has been suffering from phimosis, a penis malformation that prevents him from experiencing sexual satisfaction. Now at seventeen, he starts to feel some pressure from the outside world— everyone around him talks and thinks about sex: his friend Arturo is so obsessed with losing his virginity that is willing to pay for it, Edoardo’s parents, encourage him to declare his love to Bianca and even his little sister Olivia is looking for a good partner for the family dog Teagan. Edoardo’s lack of confidence begins to change when he meets a new girl, Elisabetta, and the unexpected approach of Bianca. Forced to come out of the shadow he was hiding in, Edoardo tries first to solve his problem with clumsy strategies.

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Phimosis is a congenital inability to retract his foreskin. This means that any form of sexual activity is physically as well as emotionally challenging. Edoardo is terrified of having an operation and turns instead to creams, condoms, and even an octopus. His life is one of trepidation as he struggles to overcome obstacles.

When Edoardo is examined, both by his parents and doctor, his naked behind fills the frame, putting us within eye level of the examiner. Yet director Duccio

Chiarini never implicates the audience as voyeurs, but instead as participants in his story. The body is treated biologically as opposed to an expression of voyeurism and sex is a biological experience is inadvertently made through Edoardo’s little sister’s (Bianca Ceravolo) obscene obsession with finding their female dog a mate in order to have puppies. This places Edoardo’s insecurities and shame outside of the emotional spectrum and so it becomes an easy feat to overcome – if he is willing to take that risk.

Edoardo lives in Pisa and has been suffering since childhood from phimosis. The wellbeing of his malformed penis is of great concern for the entire family, with both his parents (Michele Crestacci and Bianca Nappi) and even his little sister Olivia participating in inspections of Edoardo’s penis. The director says that there are parts of the film that are autobiographical. The film smartly mixes humor and drama, and has a lesson or two about courage, improvisation and overcoming one’s insecurities.

As for Edoardo, he is morose teenager who is as thin as a broomstick but has a huge heart beating in his chest. His actions and commentaries are governed by extraordinary common sense, even when all those around him do or say things that may hurt their loved ones. We see an impressive performance as the youngster who needs to overcome fear, pain and the unknown in order to reclaim his future.

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“Short Skin” is an interesting and relevant cinematic experience. It is greatly helped along by the ensemble of actors, who give very natural performances. It goes where other films hinted but did not dare.It’s not only Edo’s condition that troubles him, it’s the fact that he’s trying to find meaningful relationships in a world where everyone around him appears superficial in matters of the heart. We explore the multiple barriers that keep Edo from overcoming his life’s challenges. He knows that he must stop letting his fears keep him from taking action before these obstacles become insurmountable. He has a justifiable, physical reason for being uneasy about losing his virginity and the solution is going to have to be surgical.

Edo is understandably shy, but the film is certainly not shy at all about showing young people’s bodies, including Edo working on his penis and this is both a fresh note and a possible discomfort for some viewers.