Monthly Archives: January 2018

“HENRI-GEORGES CLOUZOT’S INFERNO”— An Unfinished Masterpiece

“HENRI-GEORGES CLOUZOT’S INFERNO”

An Unfinished Masterpiece

Amos Lassen

In 1964, Henri-Georges Clouzot, the acclaimed director of thriller masterpieces “Les Diaboliques” and “Wages of Fear”, began work on his most ambitious film yet, “L’Enfer” (“Inferno”). The film is set in a beautiful lakeside resort in the Auvergne region of France and was to be a sun scorched elucidation on the dark depths of jealousy starring Romy Schneider as the harassed wife of a controlling hotel manager (Serge Reggiani). However, even with huge expectations, major studio backing and an unlimited budget, after three weeks the production, it all collapsed under the weight of arguments, technical complications and illness.

This new and award-winning documentary by Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea present the film’s incredible expressionistic original rushes, screen tests, and on-location footage, reconstructs Clouzot’s original vision, and shows what happened to the ill-fated endeavor through interviews, dramatizations of un-filmed scenes, and Clouzot’s own notes.

 This was an audaciously experimental film with a virtually unlimited budget that was stopped only three weeks into production. Working closely with Clouzot’s widow, Inès, Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea reconstruct Clouzot’s original vision, filling as well as explaining the gaps with new interviews, re-enactments and Clouzot’s own notes and storyboards and we get to see what the film might have been.

Shots from the narrative proper, in stark black-and-white, look typically gorgeous, the primary reason to see “Inferno” is Clouzot’s amazing experiments with superimposed imagery.

Clouzot’s perfectionism weighed on all involved. His actors were daunted by his demands, though they delivered extraordinary performances. Crewmembers complained of frequently being woken at 2 AM when the c director had another idea. The film was probably always doomed, but the story of it is romantic and addictive.

The documentary combines archive footage (mostly black and white) with modern interviews and some redone scenes in color. Clouzot’s script is built around the obsessive jealousy of Marcel, a middle-aged, chisel-featured man married to a much younger and beautiful flirtatious woman. The main goal of the filmmaker was to try to visually render feelings of anxiety and neurosis. If nothing else, from the many clips of never before seen footage the documentary shares, it appears he would’ve succeeded on that point remarkably well.

The footage of the film itself is brilliantly composed and framed and the standout sections are the hours of tests (shot in both black & white and color) for the delusions Marcel has during his struggle with his jealousy. Playing with light, water and “kinetic art”, Clouzot devised some stunning visual experiments and captured them on film.

SPECIAL FEATURES include:

* High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation

* Original 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio

* Optional English subtitles

* Lucy Mazdon on Henri-Georges Clouzot, the French cinema expert and academic talks at length about the films of Clouzot and the troubled production of Inferno

* They Saw Inferno, a featurette including unseen material, providing further insight into the production of Inferno

* Filmed Introduction by Serge Bromberg

* Interview with Serge Bromberg

* Stills gallery

* Original trailer

* Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Twins of Evil

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

“JEAN-LUC GODARD+JEAN-PIERRE GORIN: FIVE FILMS”— A Revolutionary Concept of Film

“JEAN-LUC GODARD+JEAN-PIERRE GORIN: FIVE FILMS”

A Revolutionary Concept of Film

Amos Lassen

A new box set, with five innovative film collaborations from French director Jean-Luc Godard and film writer Jean-Pierre Gorin introduces us to a revolutionary cinema style in an attempt to disseminate explosive political ideas, and shake up the world of film. The five films listed below were all originally shot in 16mm celluloid and are examples of Godard and Gorin’s revolutionary project. The films are:

* “Un film comme les autres” [“A Film Like Any Other”]

* “British Sounds” or “See You at Mao”

* “Vent d’est” [“Wind from the East”]

* “Lotte in Italia / Luttes en Italie” [“Struggles in Italy”]

* “Vladimir et Rosa” [“Vladimir and Rosa”]

After finishing his film “Weekend” in 1967, Godard shifted gears and began engaging more directly with the radical political movements of the era, creating a new kind of film, or, as he eventually put it: “new ideas distributed in a new way.” This new method in part involved his collaborating with young critic and journalist, Jean-Pierre Gorin. Both as a two-person unit, and as part of the loose collective known as the Groupe Dziga Vertov (named after the early 20th-century Russian filmmaker and theoretician), Godard and Gorin realized “some political possibilities for the practice of cinema” and craft new frameworks for investigating the relationships between image and sound, spectator and subject, cinema and society.

SPECIAL FEATURES INCLUDE:

* High-definition digital transfer

* High-definition Blu-ray (1080p) and standard-definition DVD presentations

* Original uncompressed monaural audio

* Optional English subtitles

* A conversation with JLG – Interview with Jean-Luc Godard from 2010 by Dominique Maillet and Pierre-Henri Gibert

* 100-page full-color book containing English translations for the first time of writing by, and interviews with, Godard and Gorin, and more.

“FOAM PARTY”— Having Fun

“Foam Party” (“Como la espuma”)

Having Fun

Amos Lassen

.Milo (Carlo D’ursi) is a young man is paraplegic because of an accident and he is still dealing with trauma . Lately, he has been feeling alone because he is confined to a wheelchair after and is still very angry that Mario, the love of his life, walked out on him some ten years ago.

 Milo’s friend Gus (Nacho San Jose) calls a friend of his own, transsexual named Camilla (Javier Ballesteros) and asks her to host a party to celebrate Milo’s birthday. Instead, Camilla organizes an orgy at Milo’s big home where a few hundred people to have indiscriminate sex.

Naturally, the participants have stories. Elisa is a young shy and romantic girl looking to know if she has a wild side like her friends. She meets Jorge, a nice boy more who has experimented in life and sex. Marta and Jesús, are in their thirties and married to each other but passion has left their marriage. Rubén, Isma and Pato are three friends who hope to have sex with as many girls as they can while Susana, a mature woman is looking for somebody important for her. Then there is Mario (Daniel Muriel), Milo’s high school love.

As this diverse group of strangers search for sex, they uncover both funny and profound stories that expose some of their most inner secrets and hopes and dreams as well as their fears.  At the same time, Milo is dealing with issues of his own as he resents his home being used by all these people.

This will come to a head for him when he discovers that Mario is there and he has to deal with wanting to maintain his bitter contempt whilst at the same time trying not to show that he is still very much in love with him.

The sex scenes are discreetly filmed as are the other fun things the party guests do while naked. This is a comedy that gives the viewer a feel good feeling and the strong gay storyline is charming. The film is written and directed by Roberto Perez Toledo and he shows us things are not always what they seem.

“1:54”— Bullying, Intimidation and Homophobia

 

“1:54”

Bullying, Intimidation and Homophobia

Amos Lassen

At 16, Tim (Antoine Olivier Pilon) is a bright student and gifted athlete. However, he is very nervous and with good reason. His suburban high school is a hotbed of bullying, social-media intimidation and homophobia, and Tim’s sexuality is evolving. He is dealing with the nebulous world of teenage sexual identity while his schoolmates have left him isolated and afraid. He has one friend (Robert Naylor), who collaborates with him on science experiments that often end in violent explosions and gales of laughter. When his friend dies tragically, Tim copes with his grief and anxiety by throwing himself back into competitive running, a sport he’d abandoned. But there will be no Hollywood ending here, nor a West Hollywood one.

Yann England’s dramatic thriller is about peer pressure and the catalyst for a dramatic change in attitude and a redefinition of what makes Tim who he is. We enter a resonant and believable adolescent world. We see the impotence that parents and teachers suffer when trying to ‘control’ teenagers. Face-to-face bullying has not been replaced by so-called cyber-bullying and there is no longer the sanctuary of the home. Social media has made sure of that. We do not see kids playing a prank but young adults perpetrating the crimes of premeditated hate, harassment and assault. They should not be shielded because of their age.

Bullying has to be seen as and treated for what it is… a crime. Pilon’s performance as a young, gay teen with a target on his back is nothing short of wonderful. He goes through every emotion that a lifetime will throw at you…he stands, he falls, gets back up, gets knocked down…when totally broken, he breaks. As a first feature, Yann England shows the sheer isolation that this young man experiences causing us to be irate when the film ends.

Since the suicide of Tim’s best friend Francis, he has only one goal in mind, racing and beating his rival and bully so he takes his place at the national finals. For several years, Tim had abandoned running , but with the events that took away his best friend, the need for revenge propelled him to surpass himself. We are taken into the darkest corners of the harsh reality some people experience during their high school. The narrative gradually evolves into what seems to be a race between homophobia and tolerance, but it suddenly veers into something far more sinister and harrowing. Let me issue this challenge— I dare you not to weep when the film is over.

“BASKET CASE”— The Tenant in Room 7

“BASKET CASE”

The Tenant in Room 7

Amos Lassen

Frank Henenlotter’s 1982 film Basket Case is a riotous and blood-spattered midnight movie experience, now with a lavish new 4K restoration by the Museum of Modern Art.

Duane Bradley is a pretty ordinary guy. His formerly conjoined twin Belial, on the other hand, is a deformed, fleshy lump whom he carries around in a wicker basket. Arriving in New York and taking up a room at the seedy Hotel Broslin, the pair set about hunting down and butchering the surgeons responsible for their separation. Tensions flare up when Duane starts spending time with a pretty blonde secretary, and Belial’s homicidal tendencies reach bloody new extremes.

The film was made on a shoestring budget against the backdrop of 1980s New York and it has become one of the most celebrated cult movies of all time.

SPECIAL EDITION  include:

* Presented from a brand new 4K restoration from the original 16mm negative by MoMA

* High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation

* Original Uncompressed Mono Audio

* Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

* Brand new audio commentary with writer/director Frank Henenlotter and star Kevin Van Hentenryck

Basket Case 3-1/2: An Interview with Duane Bradley – Frank Henenlotter revisits Duane Bradley decades after the events of the original Basket Case

Seeing Double: The Basket Case Twins – a brand new interview with Florence and Maryellen Schultz, the twin nurses from Basket Case

* Brand new making-of featurette containing new interviews with producer Edgar Ievins, casting person/actress Ilze Balodis, associate producer/effects artist Ugis Nigals and Belial performer Kika Nigals

Blood, BASKET and Beyond – a brand new interview with actress Beverly Bonner

Belial Goes to the Drive-In – a brand new interview with film critic Joe Bob Briggs

* Outtakes Featurette

In Search of the Hotel Broslin – archive location featurette

Slash of the Knife (1972) – short film by Frank Henenlotter

Belial’s Dream (2017, 5 mins) – brand new Basket Case-inspired animated short by filmmaker Robert Morgan

* Behind-the-scenes of Belial’s Dream

* Trailers, TV Spots and Radio Spots

* Extensive Still Galleries

* Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck

 

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet with new writing on the film by Michael Gingold

“ORCHESTRA REHEARSAL”— An Allegorical Pseudo-Documentary

“ORCHESTRA REHEARSAL”

An Allegorical Pseudo-Documentary

Amos Lassen

Federico Fellini’s “Orchestra Rehearsal” was made in 1978 for Italian television and is possibly Fellini’s most satirical and overtly political film. It is an allegorical pseudo-documentary film that depicts an Italian television crew’s visit to a dilapidated auditorium (a converted 13th-century church) to meet an orchestra preparing to rehearse under the instruction of a tyrannical conductor. The TV crew interviews the various musicians who each speak lovingly about their chosen instruments. However, petty squabbles break out amid the different factions of the ensemble and the conductor berates his musicians causing the rehearsal to turn into anarchy and vandalism. A destructive crescendo ensues before the musicians regroup and play together once more in perfect harmony.

Fellini’s rich imagery and expressive style are everywhere here, in this the last collaboration between Fellini and composer Nino Rota (he died in 1979) who provides one of his most beautiful themes in the film’s conclusion.

The church is a distinguished place which has the tombs of popes and bishops buried within it and is now turned into an auditorium on account of its acoustics. Disagreement, not only among the musicians themselves, but between them and the conductor, and a dispute with their Trade Union about whether they are getting paid for their work changes the atmosphere of the holy place. There are also rumblings outside the building that seem to pose an even greater threat to the unity of their work.

Fellini’s voice can be heard from behind the camera and every now and then he ask questions from the individual members of the orchestra. Being a Fellini film, they are as varied a group of characters as the instruments they play, and each of them talks about the particular qualities that characterize the instrument, its tone, its qualities and temperament and how it ought to be used. Each musician believes that his/her instrument is the most important one in the orchestra.

The analogy of “Orchestra Rehearsal” is consequently a simple one – as beautiful as a solo instrument is and as fine as an individual voice is, acting in concert and in harmony, individuals working together under strong leadership can achieve something greater. However, this can also become a destructive force, but even though there is dispute and disagreement, the dialogue of working with another person under the direction of a person of vision allows those temperaments to be channeled towards positive ends. There is a very vague and unspecific political message in all this, but I cannot help but suspect that the main interest of the subject for Fellini is in corresponding analogy of the director as the guiding force behind the creation of great work of art. Fellini has captured the variety and the joyous pulse of life throughout his filmmaking career and having a particular affinity for expressing that vibrancy through the music Rota. Here Fellini has abandoned narrative plot and breaks down the barriers between reality and fiction by having him clearly ‘orchestrate’ the proceeding.

There are flourishes of Fellini’s greatness here and, as is common in later Fellini films, he relies on a show-stopping finale that justifies the banality and almost self-parody of what has preceded it. It is at those times that Nino Rota’s music speaks for itself, which is only in a few brief moments during the film and during the raucous finale.

SPECIAL FEATURES include:

* Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements, produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release

* High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation

* Original 1.0 mono sound

* Optional English subtitles

* Richard Dyer on Nino Rota and Orchestra Rehearsal, the film scholar talks about the great composer and his last collaboration with Fellini

* Orchestrating Discord, a visual essay on the film by Fellini biographer John Baxter

* Gallery featuring rare poster and press material on the film from the Fellini collection of Don Young

* Reversible sleeve featuring two original artwork options

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Adrian Martin

“IT’S ONLY THE END OF THE WORLD”— Coming Home to Die

“It’s Only the End of the World” (“Juste la fin du monde”)

Coming Home to Die

Amos Lassen

A dying writer returns home after more than ten years away from his family but finds little opportunity to open up to those around him as they fail to listen or sympathize during his time of need.

Xavier Dolan’s “It’s Only the End of the World” sees a family at odds after the arrival of an estranged relative forces them to confront their various shortcomings over the course of a single day. While hostility and disconnect sever discussions, Dolan ensures that each conversation becomes a puzzle piece within the soul of a dying man as he questions an entire wasted lifespan while igniting a wistfulness that fails to match the reality of his present experience.

The film deals with the effects of absence and terminal illness while nostalgia and a deep sadness hovers over the scene. Dysfunctionality blinds the fading man’s family to the nature of his visit, the movie underscores their ignorance with crushing honesty hinting that his characters might know the truth about their brother but never say so. Accusations and anger replace any kind of civility and we see this as a film of sickness, pain, and pallor about strangers who are only connected only by blood.

Successful writer Louis (Gaspard Ulliel) is welcomed, with varying degrees of warmth, by his mother (Nathalie Baye), sister Suzanne (Léa Seydoux), brother Antoine (Vincent Cassel) and sister-in-law Catherine (Marion Cotillard) on one afternoon that is filled with bickering and recriminations. As Louis tries to find the right moment to break his news, his mind wanders back to pivotal memories from his youth.

Ulliel is predominantly a blank slate, with very few lines and he portrays the terror he understandably feels at revealing the news to his family and finds his relationships with his family in such a bad way. There is the natural urge to air dirty laundry as the family members struggle and try and get along. The family consists of an emotionally unhinged mother who is finding it more difficult to understand her children but is thrilled to have them all under the one roof, a younger sibling infatuated with the brother she has never known or interacted with as an adult, and a bullying older brother whose contempt has been brewing ever since his exit from their lives.

Antoine makes no effort to hide either his anger or bitterness that is not just confined to Louis as the rest of the family, especially his wife Catherine. During the course of the day each family member ensures that they have their own private heart-to-heart with Louis so they can voice their own opinions on what they have read about in the newspapers about his life in the city as an openly-gay successful writer. Their focus is not necessarily on him, but more so about how his self-imposed exile has impacted their own lives.  None of them even seem the slightest inclined to even ask about how his life really is.

This is a sad story because of the dysfunctional dynamics and not because of AIDS scenario. We are never really sure what Louis’s motives are for thinking he needed to share the information of his impending death with a family that he had kept at postcard distance for over a decade, but Ulliel lets us suspect that it may possibly be  to relieve his own conscience. His attempt at being stoic is very effective, but even though the decision on how long he stays is in the end not up to him, he appears happy enough to be able to escape and retreat back into his own life.

“THE GRUESOME TWOSOME”— Human Hair Wigs

“THE GRUESOME TWOSOME”

Human Hair Wigs

Amos Lassen

In 1967 “Godfather of Gore” Herschell Gordon Lewis returned to genre he helped create with the delightfully depraved “The Gruesome Twosome”. The young women of a small-town American college have something to worry about— down at the Little Wig Shop, the batty Mrs. Pringle and her son Rodney are procuring only the finest heads of hair – by scalping the local co-eds. At that time the coeds

loved to cut off their own hair and wear beautiful wigs. Mrs. Pringle took note of this and additionally supplemented her income with a room for rent. The room is always for rent since Rodney kills the young ladies to harvest their hair. The movie runs only 72 minutes and is over before you know it and any real logic has been thrown out the window from the opening shot of two Styrofoam heads having a lengthy conversation to set up the film for us.

This was an attempt to ‘move in another direction’ by injecting more humor into gore. The film starts with two mannequin heads having a conversation when one is stabbed. It ‘bleeds’ that bright red paint and is a surreal opener. Lewis tries things that are beyond his usual capabilities. A prolonged scalping and beheading are the noticeable ‘set pieces’ and the effects (by his standards) are marginally better. There are some scenes that cause unintentional humor, involving Lewis’ need to feature young women in their under garments.

Early on a group of teen students (who all look much older) sit in a bedroom in their nighties, jumping onto the beds and dancing away for the hell of it. The fashion, the décor, the music and the dancing are all every much of the sixties and are cheesy. One scene features two characters eating a meal at a table, yet their faces are never shown. It is obvious from the audio that Lewis has dubbed the lines as the farcical body language of the actors suggests something different is being discussed to what is actually heard.

There are exchanges between characters or they are shown doing things that feel as if they purely exist to pad out the short run time. The opening scene with the talking heads was made months after filming had finished in a blatant attempt to get this title over 70 minutes long. Lewis has admitted in the past he would sometimes make a movie at the bare minimum length to meet cinema owners’ needs. That is definitely the here.

We meet our two tongue-in-cheek criminals, wig store owner Mrs. Pringle (Elizabeth Davis) and her mentally deficient son, Rodney (Chris Martell). As with all college towns, Mrs. Pringle has set up shop next to the campus to lure in all those young schoolgirls eager to sell their locks for a little handy spare cash. However, once inside the girls wind up on the wrong end of Rodney’s electric knife, which he uses to remove their scalps

Kathy (Gretchen Wells) sniffs out the disappearance of a school friend to the door of Mrs. Pringle’s wig shop and finds more than she bargained for inside.

SPECIAL FEATURES

* High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation

* English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

* Bonus Feature! 1967’s A Taste of Blood

* Introductions to the films by HG Lewis

* Archive audio commentaries for both films by HG Lewis

* Peaches Christ Flips Her Wig! – San Francisco performer Peaches Christ on The Gruesome Twosome

* It Came from Florida – filmmaker Fred Olen Ray (Scalps, The Alien Dead) on Florida Filmmaking

* HG Lewis vs. the Censors – HG Lewis discusses some of the pitfalls of the blood-and-guts business including local censorship and angry moviegoers

* Trailers and radio spot

* Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by The Twins of Evil

“THE JACKIE GLEASON SHOW: IN COLOR”— A Working Class Hero

“The Jackie Gleason Show: In Color”

A Working Class Hero

Amos Lassen

It is hard to believe that it has been already fifty years since Jackie Gleason was on television. Gleason was our working-class hero, and his show brought us an hour of non-stop entertainment every week— singing, dancing, the comedy, t stars, and “The Honeymooners.” You can now relieve those moments and in living color with guest stars Milton Berle, Red Buttons, George Carlin, Nipsey Russell, Phil Silvers and more – and all in brilliant color!  The single disc release features four never-before-released and remastered episodes of the show – including three unreleasedHoneymooners” sketches – all unseen for more than 50 years!

 “The Jackie Gleason Show” had been broadcast live and later taped in New York City since 1952, but in 1964, Gleason wanted to be based where he could play golf all year round.  Hank Meyer, a longtime South Florida publicist, knew just the spot and convinced Jackie to bring his show to Miami Beach and in the ’60s, it was a novel undertaking to broadcast from Miami Beach, and more than a hundred families relocated to stay with the show.  There was hardly any production infrastructure in South Florida and it had to be created by Jackie and his team. It paid off and the revamped show was a huge success!  

“The Jackie Gleason Show” delivered Gleason’s most indelible and legendary creation – Ralph Kramden – as well as an unforgettable gallery of characters he himself created and fine-tuned. But, most memorably, Gleason and Art Carney revived their Honeymooners roles, with Sheila MacRae and Jane Kean added as the new Alice and Trixie, all presented in glorious color for the first time. 

“IT TAKES FROM WITHIN”— Isolation and Unease

“IT TAKES FROM WITHIN”

Isolation and Unease

Amos Lassen

Writer/director Lee Eubanks has created a menacing world of isolation and unease in his feature film debut “It Takes from Within”. The film is reminiscent of the art house films of the 1960s.

Set in a desolate town where an unnamed man and woman make preparations to attend a burial, the tension builds as the two experience increasingly disturbing incidents involving manifestations of dread and despair as the internment draws near. The coming together of expressive cinematography, brooding sound design, and minimal use of spoken dialogue makes the film feel like “a surreal, cryptic journey into the dark void between the reality and nightmare of our conflict with death.”

An intense argument separates the two, they find themselves isolated and in emotional turmoil. The film is made up of abstract, dream-like sequences. The film is a study of the human condition regarding loss, fear, and isolation. We can see this as a cinematic examination of our fears and anxieties regarding the human condition in conflict with the crisis of death. Instead of using a conventional narrative structure, “It Takes from Within” is largely made up of abstract, introspective scenes experienced from the point of view of the two unnamed leads (no names are provided for any cast member in the film). Nightmarish characters, environments, and scenes create a mood and atmosphere that is filled with loss, fear, and desolation. Director Eubanks uses avant-garde filmmaking techniques, conceptual imagery, and experimental sound design to deliver the theme that we see.

We first see a seemingly detached scene involving the entire cast, featuring a brooding score without any spoken dialogue and then this moves through several surreal images including a harsh spotlight of grass in the middle of a dark void, a young woman crawling on the ground while screaming and crying, and a bed where an elderly couple are violently tucked in and forcefully put to sleep. After this, the film floats between scenes, following the two leads (actor James Feagin and actress Kristin Duarte) as they each separately explore their deserted, harrowing surroundings in search of the funeral they are scheduled to attend.

Even though dialogue is infrequent, Eubanks uses it as a device to deliver mood rather than plot. Characters often communicate via cryptic and emotionally reserved words, lost and isolated even when speaking to each other. After a scene involving a poetic soliloquy delivered in solitude, the film continues without a word spoken for nearly thirty-five minutes. Characters and scenes develop abstractly and nonsensically as if this is all a dream.

The film’s minimalist aesthetics are simultaneously layered with detail and attention. Photographer Jason Crow beautiful and thoughtfully shot unique landscapes, dim interiors, and a stunning scene set in a noisy cafe filmed entirely in one continuous nine-minute shot.

The film seems to be meant for audiences who take pleasure in interpreting a film on their own terms, without distinct or easy-to-follow guidelines. It is a film that provides plenty of abstract material to explore and challenge. For those who are willing to take the dark and sometimes disturbing ride, it is quite a journey to experience. Gorgeously filmed in luminous black and white, the sequences do not make much sense, but the film’s point may become apparent to patient viewers.