Shame (Steve McQueen) ***1/2 - First off, let me say I can't believe this got an NC-17. The film features some graphic sexuality and nudity but tastefully (and very masterfully and artfully, may I add) shot. The sex scenes are more sad and disturbing rather than erotic or titilating since it IS a story about a man struggling with sex addiction. Michael Fassbender gives a very naked (both physically and emotionally) performance as a handsome, successful guy afflicted with it. Carey Mulligan is also equally impressive as his equally but differently damaged sister. Both were robbed of Oscar nominations. Another winner from director Steve McQueen.
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
(Russ Meyer) *** - This film is a mixed bag. More good than bad but still mixed.
It's a tad overlong. Some scenes are edited in such a way that's a bit jarring.
Some of the story threads are better than others. But still, this is worth
watching just for the totally crazy batshit insane final 20-30 minutes! It's a
campy, trash sexploitation piece but with more sophisticated, literate dialogue
courtesy of Mr. Roger Ebert, who wrote the screenplay. Filled with eye-popping
colors and beautiful design, it seems like Russ Meyer threw everything on the
wall just to see what sticks. It's sometimes fun, sometimes tedious but mostly
interesting. Recommended for weird moods.
Trance (Danny Boyle) **1/2 - Danny Boyle
is an interesting filmmaker, kind of hit and miss with me. This one is a mixed
bag. First off, the first act sets the stage for potentially intriguing and
interesting twisty thriller: A heist of a valuable painting gone wrong when one
of the accomplices loses his memory and the thieves enlist a hypnotist to
retrieve it. The next couple of acts go from one twist and gotcha moment after
another. It's these types of high-concept genre films that has twists and turns
and the blurring lines of what's real and what's not and who's playing who can
go off the rails pretty easily since it is a balancing act of writing, directing
and editing. These elements often go off the rails until the thing doesn't make
all that much sense but the performances and filmmaking are all on point and
exquisite that I'm almost willing to forgive the narrative flaws and logic
The Party (Blake
Edwards) ***1/2 - Birdie num nums! LOL. One will be LOL-ing in this wonderful
Blake Edwards-Peter Sellers cinematic collaboration (their only non-Pink Panther
film together). The brownface conceit aside, Sellers is wonderful as a bumbling
Indian actor who gets accidentally invited to a lavish Hollywood party. Chaos
ensues. I was struck by how this film felt like a Jacques Tati film (Playtime, in particular) with the way the
gags, slapstick and the descent (or ascent) to chaos is structured (I looked it
up and it was indeed Tati-influenced). It's terrific.
A Tale of the Wind (Joris Ivens) **** -
An elderly filmmaker, Joris Ivens, the director himself, goes to China to "film
the wind". This is a film which really defies classification. It's technically a
documentary but it's not really exactly. There's a story arc but it's not
exactly a narrative either. It's not a full-on mockumentary. I honestly didn't
know what to make of it at first since it goes into all sorts of strange
directions, almost dream-like at times, meta at times, both dream-like and meta
at the same time. But I think it all came together and won me over in the end. A
beautiful piece of work and as I found out, the last film of the director. This
has got to be the perfect swan song.