AN EMPIRE OF ONE

If you don't think everything's really weird, you're not paying attention.

Archive for March 2011

Some Really Weird Movies You Should See Before You Die

Christy Lemire and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of Ebert's At the Movies

A couple of weeks ago Ebert’s At the Movies (Episode 107 – March 4, 2011) reviewed Uncle Boonmee who Can Recall His Past Lives. David Lynch came up during the discussion between the critics, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky and Christy Lemire:

IGNATIY:

Well, at the same time, this isn’t about real people, it’s about these kind of spirits and other creatures.  I mean how do you feel perhaps about the films of David Lynch?

For more than two decades in the USA, David Lynch has been the go to guy when a non-Hollywood-type film comes up in discussions. It’s common for people to say something like, “It’s weird. It reminded me of David Lynch.” I had this experience at film school when fellow students said one of my films made them think of Lynch.

Why is the frame of reference for “weird cinema” limited to Lynch when there are plenty of films that are just as, if not more, weird than his?

Here are some of them.

Note: some of these are definitely not for children or the squeamish.

Click on the image to see the full movie or excerpts.

Un Chien Andalou by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali

L’Age d’Or by Luis Buñuel

Meshes of the Afternoon by Maya Deren

The Blood of a Poet by Jean Cocteau

Film #12: Heaven and Earth: The Magic Feature

Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome by Kenneth Anger

Tribulation 99 by Craig Baldwin

Wavelength by Michael Snow

Zorns Lemma by Hollis Frampton

WR: Mysteries of the Organism by Dusan Makavejev

The Color of Pomegranates by Sergei Paradjanov

Forbidden Zone by Richard Elfman

1. Un Chien Andalou by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali

2. L’Age d’Or by Luis Buñuel

3. Meshes of the Afternoon by Maya Deren

4. The Blood of a Poet by Jean Cocteau

5. Film #12: Heaven and Earth: The Magic Feature by Harry Smith

6. Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome by Kenneth Anger (Clip)

7. Tribulation 99 by Craig Baldwin (Clip)

8. Wavelength by Michael Snow

9. Zorns Lemma by Hollis Frampton

10. WR: Mysteries of the Organism by Dusan Makvejev (clips)

11. The Color of Pomegranates by Sergei Paradjanov (clips)

12. Forbidden Zone by Richard Elfman (trailer)

Written by David Kilmer

March 21, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Alternate Endings: Inglourious Basterds

I was disappointed with the ending for Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, so I wrote my own ending.

Here it is:

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS

Everyone know that Tarantino’s concept for Inglourious Basterds was a spaghetti western set in WWII. Likewise, everyone knows that the opening scene is an “homage” to a scene in Once Upon a Time in the West. However, few, if any, have pointed out that the ties between the two films extend well beyond this “homage.” Hence, this brief edition of Double Features.

Double Features: Inglourious Basterds and Once Upon a Time in the West

Mélanie Laurent’s character in Inglourious Basterds combines the Charles Bronson and Claudia Cardinale characters of Once Upon a Time in the West. Family massacres and revenge connect them. Laurent inherits her cinema from her massacred family just as Cardinale inherits property when her family is slaughtered.

Christoph Waltz is the equivalent of Henry Fonda’s character. Waltz works for Hitler; Fonda works for railroad baron Morton. However, there is no scene featuring Waltz in Basterds that matches the shock caused by the revelation that blue-eyed Henry Fonda was responsible for the massacre of the McBain family in Leone’s film.

Brad Pitt and his gang are the equivalent of Jason Robards and his gang.

Just as Inglourious Basterds is derived from another film, i.e. Once Upon a Time in the West, Once Upon a Time in the West is derived from Johnny Guitar.

Laserdisc Madness

Am I the only one who went crazy for Pioneer’s Animation Animation laserdisc series? How did it begin? I had already spent years looking for a video copy of Yuri Norstein’s “The Tale of Tales” and had learned (I think from a Sight & Sound magazine article about Norstein) that it was available on laserdisc in Japan. This led me to order a copy of the new edition of Sight & Sound’s Import Laserdisc catalog for $39.95. (I still can’t believe that I paid that much for a catalog.)

Sure enough the catalog listed a Yuri Norstein laserdisc and it included “The Tale of Tales.” But not only did the catalog confirm the existence of the Norstein LD,  it listed several other titles that set my mouth watering. They were all part of a series called Animation Animation produced by Pioneer. Several titles in that series were released in the United States, but most of them were never made available outside of Japan.

I immediately called up Sight & Sound and ordered several of the Animation Animation titles from the catalog. Little did I realize that most of these titles had been out of print for years. Most of the LD’s had been published in 1987 and had gone out of print the same year. The catalog, which had just been published, was already several years out of date. Despite this I managed to obtain a copy of  the Norstein disc. (It wasn’t easy.) In fact, I ended up with two copies.

Yuri Norstein was kind enough to sign this copy of his laserdisc

 

Over the years, I accumulated several more laserdics in the series, but the four that I had wanted the most eluded me. Once, in 1996, I had the opportunity to purchase two of them, but I was broke. (The laserdics in this series were not cheap with prices often reaching $125 or more, partly thanks to the US dollar being weak against the yen at the time.)

But today the four elusive laserdics titles in Pioneer’s Animation Animation series have finally arrived in the mail. Here they are:

Chinese Animation Film Vol. 1: The Cowherd's Flute

 

Chinese Animation Film Vol. 2: Nezha Conquers the Dragon King

 

Czechoslovak Animation: Inspiration

 

Soviet Animation

For the record, no, I don’t have every title in the Animation Animation series. Missing are a Hubley, the Baskhi Lord of the Rings, a Brothers Quay, and probably others that I don’t know about. Of course, the laserdisc medium is long dead, but Pioneer, as Geneon, has continued the Animation Animation series on DVD. In fact, there have been two Chinese animation titles that include most of the LD’s contents and I have had VHS copies of the contents of all titles for many years. However, since there are many extras that were not carried over to DVD from laserdisc, and the LD’s visual quality is superior to my VHS tapes, I am still happy to finally have the LD’s after all these years. Very happy.

Note: you can find out more about the contents of these discs from this book.

Written by David Kilmer

March 11, 2011 at 7:29 pm

The Argento Shot

Bruce Campbell in Congo

What is an “Argento Shot?”

1. It’s the shot that makes a film worth watching, even if there are no other shots worth watching in the film.

2. There is always at least one such shot in a film.

3. I heard Dario Argento say this firsthand during his appearance at the 1994 Argento retrospective at the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles. It’s one of my favorite quotes (here).

4. I coined the phrase based on what Argento said, but I don’t know if anyone else has used it.

An example? Yes, they are a bit more than a shot, but my wife suggests Bruce Campbell’s cameos in Congo and Waxwork II: Lost in Time. (View the latter here.)

For more examples of Argento shots, click here.

Written by David Kilmer

March 9, 2011 at 4:55 pm