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|26 reviews in total|
This is one of my favorite samurai movies for the complexity of the narrative. Those of you, who suffer through my reviews, know how I often assert that temporal flashbacks are the hardest plot trick to do well: Here is the exception that proves the rule. The movie opens with Tsugumo presenting himself at the Daimyo's estate, asking to be allowed to use their grounds for harakiri. They do find this a little odd, as, a little while before, another samurai did the same thing. It is decided, as in the case of the earlier samurai, they must make an example of him. Too many poor ronin have been shaking down estates, threatening suicide if they are not paid to go away. Tsugumo requests that he be allowed to make a short statement before his seppuku. This turns out to be the sad story of his daughter and son in law who was the samurai who came here to die before him. The hideous torture of Motome, who was forced to kill himself with bamboo blades, for he had sold the blades for his infant son with a high fever. The cruel feudal ruler had decided to make an extra example of him by forcing his to disembowel himself with bamboo, not an easily accomplished feat. The story is interrupted, at several points, with the overlord growing bored with hearing how awful the house had been to this Motome.
I will not spoil the many surprises for you, his revenge is quite Machiavellian in its cleverness. When you watch it over, notice how he baits them to brag about their samurai honor and pride. This is exactly where he strikes, he knew that it was a suicide mission, he had lost everything and could not care less. His point of attack is to humiliate his enemies rendering their boasts of 'honor' and 'duty' hollow facades. The first time you watch this, you are going to be sure it will be a Sword Of Doom finale, which was attacked as unreal. Here, it is rendered much more believably. Tsugumo takes wicked damage, bleeding profusely, they close in carefully. Yet, the movie defies your expectations consistently. The feudal lord is a master at covering up problems. Watch how everything is changed and disseminated all cleaned up. The movie has stunning imagery, including the only duel that is shown in total: on camera, it is between Tsugumo and the clan's best swordsman, the sadistic, sneering Omodaka. He is so arrogant that he lectures Tsugumo on leaving a letter behind him: For him, it is a foregone conclusion. The use of wind and fog, in this great duel, are done with great artistry.
Tsugumo has this stance like a giant X where he holds the sword out away from his body that is very well done. Like Harmonica, in Once Upon A Time In The West, he has lost everything in life. He is living in the ghost house where his young children were raising their baby. This Clan wiped everyone out, watch for when they deliver Motome's corpse with the mocking smiles and sarcastic remarks. My favorite scene is where the clan leader gets a report of the death toll, he looks through the rice paper: the Stygian flames give it a Hellish appearance. With the dissonant music, this is a brilliant piece of imagery. That is what he got for his cruelty, a human scythe returned to mow down his men. The way that Tsugumo humiliates them is far beyond just going wild and killing. Even though the movie closes with his B.S. being spread far and wide, the lingering on the dishonored armor, of the clan, is the director's way of telling you that their cover story is not going to hold for long. One of the darkest, most disturbing of all the samurai classics, this towers over the remake. Be sure you watch the remake before you buy it, I found it way beneath this movie. Tsugumo smiles when the lord brags about samurai honor, it is because he always knew it was their vanity that was the impetus behind their sadistic cruelty to Motome. The movie's dark message: That not all cruelty and evil goes unrequited, in this life, is rendered with excellent photography, acting and creepy dissonant music. It gets a ten for transporting me into the movie completely. A Samurai Classic. Q.E.D.
"Sow The Wind Reap The Whirlwind." Hosea 8:7
First, even as theistic existentialist, I must warn fellow people of faith that this movie is guaranteed to offend you. Monty Python's heyday was during the CounterCulture where all the traditional authority figures of society were under assault. If you agree with the philosopher, who said that God plays to an audience that is afraid to laugh, you will enjoy the movie more. The movie's plethora of quotable lines rivals Arthur: it has hundreds of them. The movie, while following the legend fairly well, parodies almost every aspect of the Arthur legend. I will point out the scenes I laughed at the most, hopefully, it will give you the sense of the movie. My header is spoken by the Deity, when he appears to the knights. They begin bowing and scraping, this really irritates Him. "Oh, stop with the I am not worthy, I am so evil, it is such a bore!" From bring out your dead, to Cleese trying to rescue someone, at the wrong castle, impaling everyone at a wedding feast and following it up with,"Terribly sorry," there are visual scenes that work as well as the dialog. Do not be chased away, the humor is not all sacrilegious, it is also has great fun with politicians. Wait for the economic debate between the peasants who accost King Arthur. He attempts to exclaim that his authority came from God through the lady of the lake giving him Excalibur.
The mocking peasant responds,"There really are more rational systems of government than water logged strumpets distributing swords." He persists with the argument until Arthur resorts to showing the real basis of all political systems: Violence. Before you watch Python's best movie, ask yourself if you like very zany parodies or satires like Buckaroo Banzai? The movie's tone is relentlessly mocking of pretty much every topic. The lecture on how to tell if a woman is a witch, using the scientific method, is priceless. Look I am religious but the holy hand grenade is funny. He consults the book of armaments,"Throw thou thy holy hand grenade with which you shall blow your enemies into myriads of pieces." No, if you a devout practitioner any of the earth's major religions and not a goofy philosopher, like your author, I would avoid this movie, it will anger you. My devout Christian parents detested it. Like all artifacts of the Hippie Era, they are having a good time with conventional society. There are a few 'action' moments that are also played for laughs. The famous bridge duel is here over an impossibly small creek. As Arthur begins dismembering the Black Knight, his defiance continues despite losing all of his limbs.
The scene with the killer rabbit is one of Python's funniest scenes: wait until you see it fly through the air and rip this knight's throat out. "I warned you, it's a killer." Python's humor is aimed at much at English history as at religion or traditional authority. If you are going to collect these, start with this one. I would then buy: Life Of Brian, Python At The Hollywood Bowl, And Now For Something Completely Different, last, The Meaning Of Life. I love the insurance rebellion, at the beginning of Meaning Of Life, but there are a few stories that do not work so well (Vomit Boy). This is very easy to review for you: Python movies provoke a pure Manichean reaction in viewers: Love or Hate, nothing in between. Usually, two opposing philosophical groups equally detest their movies: Religious people and Empiricists. If you are a realist, who hates abstract thought or imaginative movies, you will find yourself in odd company with devout religious people. For me, Python always makes me laugh: The Knights Who Go Neee!, the singer behind the cowardly knight,"He's running away, he's chickening out, running to fight another day." Life Of Brian is a very close second for me. This one wins for the sheer number of great one liners where Brian has the classic: Biccus Diccus. A Comedy Legendary Classic. Oh, Stop Groveling! Q.E.D.
"A Little Nonsense, Now And Then, Relished By The Wisest Men." Willy Wonka
This surprisingly good movie was attacked immediately by Carpenter's worshipers for the blasphemy of daring to remake his classic. Let's get the flaws out of the way: Drea De Matteo is gorgeous but not the best actress that is why Bello is here. Luckily, Bello begins taking a larger role while Matteo is more background. Be warned, this is much more intense and violent that Carpenter's original. The narrative follows the original fairly well: a snowbound bus is forced to stop at the abandoned precinct to keep the deadly Bishop, played well by Fishburne, from getting loose. There is a skeleton crew, at the soon to be closed precinct, basically: Hawke, Dennehy and Matteo. There are a few criminals, awaiting transfer, but soon everyone is under siege as a group begins assaulting the building. The cops assume it is Bishop's gang, come to rescue him. Here is where I admired the writing: wrong, it is a group of crooked cops who Bishop dared to say 'no' to for their ever increasing demanded percentage. The movie follows the siege growing progressively perilous as they begin trying more and more clever tricks to get Bishop. Jake, to his credit, throws the rule-book out and arms his prisoners presenting the attackers with a much more heavily defended fortress.
Byrne leads the corrupt cops, he turns in his usual great performance. These are the things that will make you love the movie: betrayals, double agents, compromised friends and pop out scare the crap out of you surprises. Not everyone is who they appear to be, remember, Duvall is a respected police captain, not everyone is ready to die for Bishop. My favorite scene is the biggest scare in the movie: The French director did what is typical in French cinema but completely anomalous in American movies: he does not have happy endings or the preservation of 'good' characters. This is what I mean by 'unpredicatable', bad things happen to innocents just like real life. The thematic irony of the movie is that we hear Jake's therapist, played by Bello, lecture him upon how he is too afraid to face the tragedy that befell him at the beginning of the movie. Watch what happens when the excrement hits the fan, Doctor Lady turns out not to be a paragon of bravery herself. This is the other joy: the complexity of the characters, other than Jake, these are real human beings. Bishop helps them but they wisely know he will turn upon them the first chance he gets. Their expectations do not prove wrong, there are many stand-offs with everyone pointing guns at each others. The criminals could not give a crap about the cops and vice-versa. There is a delicate balance that poor Jake is forever trying to preserve.
The main attacks on the movie were the unfavorable comparisons with the original and the intense violence with a few innocents being violently killed. Byrne and Fishburne give the best readings but Hawke's is not bad either. Bello, who I wasn't wild about in History Of Violence, does much better here. As an action movie, after a short introduction, the movie starts and never stops until the very ending. The first time you watch this you will have utterly no idea what is coming next. Bishop is just as dangerous as Duvall, the cops are quite aware of this fact. The movie also uses the old The Thing trick: is that person working for the other side? Why did they do that? You will be as paranoid as the characters, we had a running argument over who was a rat in my house. Why is my rating so much higher than IMDb's? First, action movies I evaluate predicated upon the pacing: Boring or Not Boring, this is one intense, fast moving piece of work. The villains are great, both Bishop and Duvall; they also are not cartoon characters. Duvall actually respects and is very kind to one of his captives right before he blows their brains out. Above all things, I loved the writing of the movie and the French director's choices here. This movie is not like any other typical American action movie. I still watch it occasionally, it is always exciting, even when you know what is going to happen. A Very Good Action Movie. Q.E.D.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was Aldrich's last movie and it was received with great perplexity. Suffice to say, wrestling was not mainstream at this time. Both ladies are gorgeous to look at and surprisingly skilled wrestlers. The matches are well choreographed but that is not what is most endearing about it. The bulk of the movie is the two women and Falk driving about from city to city with well written dialog that is entertaining. He is always trying to 'broaden' their horizons with his incessant opera blaring on the speakers. A legendary tightwad, the ladies have to work on him for the most basic of supplies. Always spouting a never ending torrent of B.S. about the great matches he has lined up that never quite turn out to be so. Pauly, from Rocky, plays a real piece of crap promoter who rips the team off for big bucks. Problem is, he is the gateway to the championship. I won't spoil for you how they finally get the title shot. Look for the old actor, Hancock (10) as the manager of the team that is the Dolls' nemesis. Yes, other reviewers are correct, if you hate wrestling I would not watch the movie. I should tell you that in a mixed gender audience, though some women were not thrilled with close ups on their body parts, they did like the chemistry between Falk and the two women. Aldrich always was good at character development (Dirty Dozen), here you see it again.
It is a clever way to get us to care about a rather vapid narrative. We spend lots of time in the car as Falk interacts mentoring the ladies about how to become champions. They have learned not to believe too much of what he says. Behind the scenes, when they are not watching, he is quite protective of them. Watch what happens to Eddie's car when he rips them off. It does grow quite serious as the women wind up in a humiliating semi-nude mud wrestling match in a circus like atmosphere with people laughing at them. What is done, behind Harry's back, to get that championship match causes plenty of strife in the triad. Like Rocky, it builds to the climactic showdown for the title. As your reviewer, even if you don't like wrestling, put the movie on and see if you like the byplay between the three actors. For me, I cared about all of them by the time we got to the end. Imagine how bad this would have been without Aldrich? Some bad director just showing us matches without all this character development? The critics were not kind to the movie, most attacks focused upon the salacious close ups of the women's hot bodies. Landon and Frederick are capable but this is Falk's movie. The ladies more than made up for the acting differential by absorbing nasty wrestling moves.
If you like off beat, slice of life movies with good acting and writing: this is for you. Modern effects viewers will be unconscious in about ten minutes. This was made very close to the 70's where existential studies of ways of life were the norm (Friends Of Eddie Coyle, The Conversation). While it is not remotely in their class, it still is cut from the same pattern. I own the movie for a look at a way of life; also, the beautiful women are not hard on the eyes either. Q.E.D.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of the easiest movies to help you with. When I read many of your movie lists, I see lots of Barbara's fans love her movies. If you are a fan of Barbara's, just skip this review, you will disagree with it. Her movies had almost a cult status, my aunt dragged me to all of them as a small boy. The plot is threadbare: a rich woman's investments are wiped out she is left with only a tax shelter fighter who never fights; she discovers, to her horror, that he actually costs her money. Upon arrival, at the gym, she finds out that Kid is figure of ridicule to the other boxers. When she refers to him as a fighter, there is plenty of snickering. Streisand's fans will enjoy the usual feuding that proceeds what we all know is coming round the bend: romance. The great old actor Whitman Mayo, who played Grady on Sanford And Son, is wasted here as Kid's manager. Most scenes, he is just standing wordlessly over O'Neal staring off into the distance, bored. Zieff gets horrible performances out of his actors, Peters produced, as usual, which answers the mystery as to why the readings are so poorly rendered. FOR NON-STREISAND FANS: I remembered this movie as entertaining, I put it on last night, boy, was I retarded when I was young. Slow, annoying, pointless with an offensive remark that never would be made today,"If you do that I will cut your T off?" What genius wrote that line?
The movie is pithily summarized as: Babs driving all about, in gorgeous outfits, trying to get O'Neal a fight. She throws galas for him, has soirees at people's houses. The bulk of the movie is loud arguments between the two principals. My main complaints, against the movie, were pointed out by a good reviewer above this one: it is incessantly loud, unfunny, boring and wandering. The conclusion, their falling in love, is a given. It is languorously arrived at, many of these supporting actors are quite good in other movies: not here. Zieff gets dreadful readings out of, not just the lead actors, but great supporting actors as well. The movie builds to a fight where, show of hands, does O'Neal win? Gee, what a freaking surprise! While I am not a Babs' fan, she is a capable actress as she showed in Nuts or Clear Day. Here, Zieff lets her prattle with the worst unfunny dialog, line after line falls flat. Despite these deficiencies, her fans will still enjoy her. She is stunningly beautiful with constant outfit changes as if the producers knew they were in trouble. O'Neal and Babs always had great screen chemistry but this is nowhere near What's Up Doc? If you are a collector, I would certainly watch this movie before I purchased it. I was quite young, but I do remember people walking out of this movie.
My main complaint is one word: Coma. That is what I was in near the end of a relatively short movie that consists, like Vertigo, of endless perambulations about her different destinations chasing down Kid to get him to fight. He tries many manipulations to get out of fighting, some of them appear to have been written by a four year old with a crayon. Summary: Do not even watch this movie unless you adore Barbara Streisand; even with this caveat, I would drink the strongest coffee or energy drink handy. True, I do not own any of her movies, I found this to be the worst of her work that I had ever seen. Nuts is like The Godfather next to this trip into delta wave sleep. Brace Yourself! Q.E.D.
For those young people, who are wondering where Brendan Fraser got his start, this really was the movie that made him a star. It is so far removed from The Mummy Trilogy or an action genre. He is recruited, for only one year, to be the star quarterback of an Ivy League high school that is the gateway to the big Ivy League Colleges: Princeton, Harvard, Yale. From the beginning, when his coach picks him up, it is made indelibly clear to him that he is to conceal his Jewish heritage from the student body. The Blue Bloods view this as a Fautian bargain, given their virulent anti-semitism, to get David's great physical gifts without his Jewish religion. David goes out of his way to comply: removing his Star Of David chain, skulking about to chapel to celebrate a Jewish holiday, and even enduring anti-Jewish slurs and jokes in showers. This is what to always notice, many critics attacked this movie, claiming that Green had a 'chip on his shoulder', not at all, when you watch it, he does everything he can to blend in. The first half of the movie, everything is going well, he even protects a fellow student who is victimized by the sadistic Mr. Cleary, one nasty French teacher. He is integrated into their social group, though, even here, the patricians look down upon him for being a waiter to supplement his income. A few cruel snickers and snotty looks are aimed at him.
The undoing comes when he makes the mistake of taking an interest in Dillon's girlfriend, this is the beginning of the end. You will see many future stars here, at the beginning of their movie careers, Damon, O'Donnell, you will barely recognize them. Dillon comes upon Green's secret using it to rally the other students against him. Soon, Swastikas and anti-Semitic signs are being left behind for him all about his room. By the movie's end, David is all alone now, soon, they frame him in a cheating scandal that looks like it will result in his expulsion. I will not spoil it for you, it is well written, with plenty of twists and turns. What this movie does very well is to show you the pressure cooker that these young 'legacy' students have to fulfill. The expectations that they must live up to, is evocative of An Officer And A Gentlemen, where David Keith kills himself for failing to live up to his rich family's standards of generational achievement. Here, because one simply cannot speak French up to Cleary's standards, he has a full meltdown and is taken away. I thought this movie was far more successful in communicating to fellow gentiles what it is like to be Jewish. The life that David puts together in the first half of the movie unravels, thanks to Dillon, with even his girlfriend babbling some Nazi eugenics about the 'kind of babies we would have.'
The resolution is the highlight of the movie and it was brave enough not to have a hackneyed 'happy reconciliation' between the combatants. My favorite line is spoken by David when the headmaster seeks to sweep everything under the rug. Let's just pretend nothing happened, shall we? David responds,"No, I won't let you forget, you are using me for football and I am using you to get into Harvard." The characters are complex here, some help David but turn on him when the pressure gets severe. Even a couple, who help him, do so for reasons other than caring about him and retain their anti-semitism. This is the surprise of this movie: these characters are written with hierarchical loyalties that cause them to flip, without warning, then return after they meet their needs. Fraser shows you the actor he was to become, this standing all alone, surrounded by hostile bigots, is what earned him a future role as an action star. The Mummy's Rick may seem like a large existential extrapolation from this character but not really. Things are not all hearts and flowers, an uneasy detente is established with the hatreds still extant; frankly, this is exactly how it is in real life. The congruence of self-interest between combatants, I admired this brave piece of ontological honesty above all things. The best movie for showing you what it is like to be Jewish; I, as a gentile, found it most illuminating. Q.E.D.
"Prejudices Are What Fools Use For Reason." Voltaire
The funniest movie, whose vulgarity is equaled only by its drop dead humor, containing such classics as: Blutarski stuffing an entire burger into his mouth, Nazi Neidermeyer who is the villain who will love to hate. "Who hits a defenseless animal? I've got a good mind to smash you fat face in. Listen up, You Nauseating Pile Of Blubber." This was the best Landis ever achieved; it shot him to the moon. Shot near me, at the University Of Oregon, it has non-stop funny dialog and great scenes. I may be a theistic existentialist but I love the angel / devil scenes when that hot girl passes out in front of Hulce. Suffice to say, the devil does not recommend being a gentleman. This is why the movie's star has diminished: Zeitgeist drift. Now, within our PC world, it is: sexist and boorish. Unlike Hollywood Knights, there is funny byplay between the characters throughout the entire movie. Who will forget when Flounder's picture is put up on the screen during pledge week? As your reviewer, it is my duty to warn you that there is something in this movie guaranteed to offend everyone. This was made back when we were allowed to laugh at ourselves without getting our panties in a twist. Notice, ladies, geeks are just as much the target of the humor as poor Hulce and Flounder discover. Frankly, the movie attacks geeks and fat people as much as women.
Landis followed this up with The Blues Brothers which wasn't half this funny. It has great classic rock and you will feel reluctant sympathy for Hulce and Flounder whose lives are pretty much wiped out by joining the worst fraternity at Faber College. See how even the Italian mayor is mocked? "If you don't rein in your zoo fraternity, I will have your legs broken." I love that summary of Delta: Who dumped a truck load of Fizzies into the swim-meet? Who delivered the truckload of cadavers to the Alumni dinner? My header is spoken at the day of reckoning where the Delta's did not know they were on Dean Wormer's (love that name) double secret probation. He is telling them they are all expelled, watch for Flounder's reaction, it is a classic. When he reads their abysmal GPA's he comes to Belushi, who has pencils up his nostrils,"Mr. Blutarski, 0.0." Yes, it is vulgar, sexist, crude and offensive and it is also one of the funniest movies ever made. That was not just my opinion, Landis was nobody before this movie. It was such a massive hit that he made some crap after it and still kept making movies (Into The Night, Twilight Zone: The Movie).
Before you consider watching this, brace yourself, it was before the thought police. You better be ready for every group of human beings to be mocked: fat people, geeks, Italians, nationalists, women, authority figures and politicians. Animal House is like Dirty Harry, it was made at the end of the CounterCulture: ergo, all the traditional icons are assaulted. This is why the Nazi Neidermeyer is the focus of attacks, Metcalf steals the movie. The funniest lines here are spoken by him,"Tuck in those pajamas." The snobby sorority sisters, the fascist Omegas, the dictator Wormer, I have seen this fifty times, I have the movie memorized. Matheson was also made a star here, besides Belushi, for his ruthless womanizer who knows no scruples,"Yes, and can you get some dates for my friends?" As your reviewer, it is my duty to warn you that, if you are PC, you will just detest the movie. It is from an alien zeitgeist where we had fun with each other before they handed out the 'little red books.' I only own two Landis movies: this one and The Three Amigos. This is the funniest movie he ever made. I still watch it to this day. "Can I Have 10,000 marbles, please?" A Great Comedy. Q.E.D.
"Fat, Drunk And Stupid Is No Way To Go Through Life, Son." Dean Wormer
Yes, I know Kentucky Fried Movie had some fun with this movie, hey, it is action not drama. This movie is quite different from your typical Lee movie in that there are other character's stories interwoven into the narrative. Kelly and Saxon's stories, and their friendship, are quite different from your typical Bruce Lee movie. Saxon was an experienced actor, he helps anchor the cast. I love that scene where he lets the guy whale on him until he gets Kelly to obtain the right odds out of him for the big payday. He is also not above cheating, when Bolo is about to break his arm, he applies the old reliable teeth to the calf muscle: It works very well. Bob Wall was a big Karate champion, at this time, that Bruce had used in Way Of The Dragon. You will recognize him by that scar on his face; he has a great fight with Lee here. What is astounding is Lee's speed, when you get used to watching this classic, all the other fighters, except Jet Li, will seem like they are in slow motion. The plot is straightforward: the government wants Lee to go undercover at a martial arts tournament run by the infamous Han; they suspect heroin distribution and slaving out women. Lee infiltrates Han's operation on two perilous night missions into his underground control center. The second mission, he triggers the alarms, which leads to his legendary fight with Han's guards. The scene has to be seen to be believed.
Lee's flexibility matched his speed: watch his kicks finish over the top of his head. This is how he destroyed so many: speed and reach with his kicks. In the finale of Dragon, where he beats Chuck Norris, again, it is the kicks that reach Norris while Lee stays out of fist range. The movie's other atypical feature is martial arts battles with people other than Lee. Han versus Kelly and Bolo making nasty work of the guards who failed to stop Lee at night. The movie was criticized, at the time, for its graphic sound effects: necks snapping, arms / legs breaking. Even in Fists Of Fury, Lee does not shy away from showing death / crippling blows. It was Lee's first big joint Weintraub / Chow feature; you can see how Clouse tried to broaden it for Western audiences. Saxon is here to provide some narrative about the scheming gambler always on the lookout for crooked money to be made. Han makes him an offer he cannot refuse. The other difference is that Lee was quite conservative and his movies were not famous for nudity. In Way Of The Dragon, there is a quick flash of a prostitute, in Rome, but nothing more as Lee flees from her. Clouse adds plenty of nudity here with girls being handed out like candy.
Lee's speed here is the quickest of all of his films. The fight with Wall is my favorite, yes, the one with Han is good, but not like two masters really putting on a show. The pacing is the quickest of Lee's films. There really is no backstory like a restaurant being shaken down, troubles at his dead master's school, the movie starts with them coming to the tournament. A series of flashbacks shows you that all of them are running from something except Lee. His flashback shows his sister's fate, at the hands of Wall, which gives their upcoming fight a personal element. People who dislike the movie tend to want all Lee and no Saxon or Kelly. While this is true, Lee is at the very apex of his skills here. The fight with Han's guards is alone worthy of owning the movie. This scene is about ten minutes of solid fighting with Lee taking on like twenty guys. He really was one of a kind, we shall never see his equal in our lifetimes. His dedication to his art was sculpted upon his incredibly developed physique that bore witness to his eternal training. Lee always said that the martial arts were useless without great physical fitness. It is a sad reality, he died so young, I always wonder what treasures he could have left us. He was much more than a martial artist. He became the hero of the Chinese people, and then, the legend of the world's. The Dragon At His Zenith. I look at his poster often, the great master reminds me of the life of a single victorious day. Deus Vobiscum Dragon Q.E.D.
"Real Living Is Living For Others." Bruce Lee
If someone asked me how you can tell a great director from a mediocre one, the best test is this: a great director can take an ordinary script and make a classic. A crappy director can take a great cast and script and turn out a poor movie. Look at the impediments that Polanski has to work with here: he is tied to the interiors of the house for almost the whole movie, it is night constantly, the set has limited possibilities for suspense. Yet, despite all these obstacles, Polanski made one intense piece of work. I commend Weaver, she erased all doubts in my mind about her gifts. This shows you what a better director could bring out of her. The plot is simple: a couple, in a South American country, is visited by a doctor who gives the husband a ride home; he had a flat tire. Paulina has to retreat from the room, she recognizes his voice, his odd way of laughing and quotations of Nietzsche. She is sure this is the man who tortured her when she and her husband were revolutionaries against the government. Her husband is working with the new president to bring the fascists to justice. As the movie plays, she captures Dr. Miranda, ties him to a chair and begins torturing him trying to get him to confess. The entire movie is this mystery, which I refuse to spoil for you: Is she crazy or is he really the monster?
When her husband returns to find Miranda bleeding from a head wound, tied to a chair, he is sure she has flipped out. Also, he knows the ramifications if she is wrong and the powerful doctor tells the press: it will wreck everything politically. Parents, be warned, she recounts verbally the assaults, in graphic detail, when she was tied naked to a table and repeatedly raped by Dr. Miranda. When she proffers only his argot, his quotations and his smell, we begin to share her husband's skepticism. The movie is inside of this house almost the entire movie; the three actors must carry the movie upon their shoulders. Do not let me chase you away, Polanski could make a bucket of dishwater exciting. Here, there are many escapes and close calls with the doctor getting loose and looking for some payback. Even until the very end, at my house, a room full of people were wrong. This is the best part, you will never know whether she is crazy or not. When Paulina hears Schubert's Death And The Maiden, which the doctor played when he raped her, she snaps and abducts him.
The trauma of rape, how she was destroyed, vaginally, so she could no longer have children, is relayed well without being maudlin. Weaver must play an anguished women filled with ambivalencies, it is a very demanding role. If you have only seen her in the Alien movies, you are in for a real treat. This is her movie, everyone else is in support. There are long scenes with her talking to the gagged Miranda. "You know I used to love Schubert, now it makes me sick, physically sick to hear it." Her best scenes are where she tells her husband how she never gave him up, despite the violations, she knew it was his death sentence. Wilson's Geraldo also plays a deeply conflicted husband: grateful but not sure if his abused wife has selected some doppelganger to vent her hatred upon. The resolution was my favorite scene, I will not spoil it for you. Polanski sometimes makes morally relativistic movies (Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby), here, his ending is deeply moral. The photography is excellent with plenty of Noir shadows reflecting the existential darkness within the characters. It is easy for me to tell her to forgive, if I suffered what she did I doubt I could do it. Another Masterpiece From A Genius. Q.E.D.
Lear's shows really are the same template repeated over and over. There is a bigot (Archie, George, Fred) who comes to have experiences with the people he hates that slowly begin chiseling through his facade: With All In The Family, it is Lionel, Sanford And Son, Julio and The Jeffersons, the interracial couple next door. What happened to Lear is when he made his shows too pedantic (Maude), with unlikable characters, they bombed. Carroll O' Conner and Jean Stapleton were this show. The writing was consistently hilarious with occasionally forays into serious topics (Rape, Death). The show was a nation's way of debating the social issues that were congruent with this Zeitgeist (Vietnam, Watergate, Women's Liberation, Abortion, Gay Rights). They are the center of many of the episodes, you have the different Dasein or Being There trying to find compromise on the issues (The traditional family man, his wife, the hippie intellectual). Above all things, like my preferred Sanford And Son, the shows are funny. Archie's racism is not just aimed at darker skinned people. The Irish's famous hatred for Italians was not joyfully received in our house. "Italians are known for two things: Spaghetti and Revenge." Archie is like Dirty Harry, he hates everybody.
Many women consider the show sexist but, again, Lear is developing the character you are seeing from how he was at the beginning. Like Fred, he has good experiences with others different from him that, quite slowly, begin changing him. The rape episodes were quite controversial in their day and sparked a public debate. There are moments, here, where Archie shows his deep love for Stapleton. She may be submissive, but, not always. There are times when she stands up to him and demands he respect her wishes. These two great actors, with great writing, are why the show endured. Archie's chair is in the Smithsonian for a reason: It was iconic. It was a the emblem of a traditional society facing rapid social change. Yes, detractors, Lear had his liberal agenda that he is always pushing: ergo, the idealized representations of 'The Other.' Even I, a conservative, found some of his work meritorious: he was helping a whole generation experience those different from them as non-threatening. Archie was such a bungler that it was hard to take offense towards him. Describing the pope as 'inflammable', Lear writes him as a sour curmudgeon whose bluster conceals a good heart, buried, deep, deep down.
As Julio said to Fred Sanford,"You know, I know what is deep inside of you." When you watch this remember what is going on, at this time, in the United States. This is the most turbulent period of social upheaval since the Civil War. The love of Archie and Edith, their loyalty to each other is what is often missed. This, was the paradox, while promoting liberal views, the existential bedrock of this long running show was the love between these two traditional people surrounded by a changing country. Within the great comedy, there are quiet moments of love between the couple. This island of traditional conservative stability was the rock upon which many viewers cast their anchor. It was a delicate balance, Lear was not always successful in maintaining it. Sanford And Son's writing declined around season 4, the ratings plummeted. When all is said and done, whether dead tired working people laughed, or not, was the focal point. When, with Maude, Lear presented an unlikable cast, focusing more upon indoctrination, the show quickly failed. The opening song contains the show: "We could use a man like Herbert Hoover again; Those were the days." You seeing frightened people trying to latch onto some vestige of what the country once was. Archie and Edith were with me as I grew, they brought much laughter into our lives. Even I, a conservative, loved the show. A One Of A Kind Show. Q.E.D.
"You Can Never Step In The Same River Twice." Heraclitus
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