Sunday, November 4, 2012

"Fear For Her"

304) Demon Seed (1977) Dir: Donald Cammell Date Released: April 8, 1977 Date Seen: September 22, 2012 Rating: 3.75/5

Here's another VHS shoebox pick I saved for a rainy day. I only watched Demon Seed because BAM just programmed it for Halloween, which reminded me that I owned it, but had yet to watch it. Cammell's emphasis on the way Proteus performs in order to avoid detection--of all the amazing things Proteus can do, surely the most amazing is the way he replicates his human masters' voices--is very reminiscent of (you guessed it) Performance. Which is funny, since Nicolas Roeg fans usually say is more of a Roeg film than a Cammell pitcher. But, on top of Performance and Demon Seed's shared thematic concern with performance-as-reality, the latter film's 2001-inspired psyechedlia also felt like a product of the same guy that made Performance. Did Nicolas Roeg ghost-direct this one, too?! Granted, I don't know nearly enough about Performance's famously screwy production history to say just how much of that movie is Cammell's. But now I'm curious to find out. Any tips, impromptu history lessons or suggested reading is welcome.

"Christ, F^ck me If I Can Remember When..."

303) The Fourth Man (1983) Dir: Paul Verhoeven Date Released: June 27, 1984 Date Seen: September 22, 2012 Rating: 3.75/5

There are a handful of filmmakers whose work I've been slowly stockpiling in the event of A) depression B) a rainy day C) days when I realize B is actually code for A. Albert Brooks, Spike Lee, Paul Verhoeven, Pedro Almodovar, Robert Altman and Richard Fleischer come to mind. Anyway, so I now own all of Verhoeven's Dutch features...or at least, almost all of them (I might be missing one or two without even realizing it). So when Event B occurred on September 22nd, I finally dug into the shoeboxes of VHS tapes I've been slowly amassing for seven years now. I'm not a VHS nostalgist, but I don't strongly dislike tapes, and there are a number of films that are still only available on VHS and/or OOP on DVD. So, The Fourth Man.

The Fourth Man strikes me as a perfectly good neo-noir but one that, like me, gets in its own way too often to be really effective. Right now, it's a very good stylistic exercise because Verhoeven's main conceit is expressed in a fairly monotonous way: a narcissistic writer with a Jesus Complex gets his egotistical bubble burst after he shacks up with a woman that he only THINKS is a femme fatale. The ego-busting in question is however only as striking as it is perversely disturbing. Meaning: I wanted there to be more stuff directly relating Verhoeven's weird Christ fetish (oh, he still has one; in fact, he recently wrote a book about Jesus!) and this particular film's abbatoir violence. I loved the film's James Cain-inspired narrative, but was a little puzzled by the film's more outre/prickly/idiosyncratically provocative themes. If you're out there, Victor Morton, it's me, Simon Abrams, and I'm all ears.

Right now, The Fourth Man is the kind of film that I hope/suspect will only grow in my mind and mutate into something startling and new after I watch more of Verhoeven's Dutch films. Stranger things, right?

Stephen Dorff: He's Saved Every One of Us

302) The Gate (1987) Dir: Tibor Takacs Date Released: May 15, 1987 Date Seen: September 21, 2012 Rating: 3.5/5

Not too shabby. See my dopey capsule for The L Magazine.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hey, Arnold

300) Fish Tank (2009) Dir: Andrea Arnold Date Released: January 15, 2010 Date Seen: September 18, 2012 Rating: 2/5

301) Wuthering Heights (2011) Dir: Andrea Arnold Date Released: October 5, 2012 Date Seen: September 19, 2012 Rating: 2.75/5

I'm more reluctant than ever to revisit Red Road, which I remember liking when I first saw it on DVD. But yeah, here, I wrote about what I don't like about Wuthering Heights and why I think it's partly an objection to Arnold's prevailing style. Check it oot, at the Village Voice.

Yeah, No.

299) Resident Evil: Retribution (2012) Dir: Paul W.S. Anderson Date Released: September 14, 2012 Date Seen: September 16, 2012 Rating: 2/5

What happened to the trashy-fun but not particularly good Paul W.S. Anderson I used to know? And who is this imaginary Paul W.S. Anderson whose work is so daring and clean and visionary and whatever-the-fuck? I don't see that guy in any of the Resident Evil movies or The Three Musketeers, and I really wish I did. I don't even see the guy that's slavishly replicating video game choreography in his fight scenes. I see a guy that really likes the Matrix movies, particularly their "bullet time" style but forgot to get somebody like Wo-Ping Yuen to actually CHOREOGRAPH HIS FUCKING FIGHT SCENES. This drives me nuts because it makes me feel like I'm not giving Anderson a fair shot. But I am and have been following his work slavishly trying to see what so many vulgar auteurists have excavated from thin air: Paul W.S. Anderson, visionary/misunderstood filmmaker. Sorry, but this guy films bodies in motion like dancing sacks of meat. These are not people fighting each other but rather objects that happen to be people. I can't think of a single action scene in Resident Evil: Retribution that impressed me with a basic attention to detail or presence of mind. And no, I don't think the opening scene, where Alice (Milla Jovovich, still not acting in these films), falls from the sky in backwards slow-mo, is especially clever or even that cool-to-look-at. I just don't see it. Make mine Soldier, Event Horizon and Mortal Kombat.

Scream if You Want It

RV!: House of 1000 Corpses (2003) Dir: Rob Zombie Date Released: April 11, 2003 Date Seen: September 8, 2012 Rating: 3/5

RV!: The Devil's Rejects (2005) Dir: Rob Zombie Date Released: July 22, 2005 Date Seen: September 14, 2012 Rating: 3.25/5

RV!: Halloween (2007) Dir: Rob Zombie Date Released: August 31, 2007 Date Seen: September 15, 2012 Rating: 3.5/5

I maintain that Zombie's only gotten better as a filmmaker as he goes. Then again, my favorite of his films is still probably his most flawed: House of 1000 Corpses is a hoot, even if it does fall apart at the end. I interviewed Zombie at Toronto for the Village Voice. But I think we're gonna have to wait for The Lords of Salem to come out for that interview to come out. More soon.

The Wachowskis and I...and Tom Tykwer, Too!

285) Cloud Atlas (2012) Dir: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski Date Released: October 26, 2012 Date Seen: September 8, 2012 Rating: 3/5

RV!: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006) Dir: Tom Tykwer Date Released: January 5, 2007 Date Seen: October 5, 2012 Rating: 4.25/5

RV!: The Matrix (1999) Dir: Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski Date Released: March 31, 1999 Date Seen: October 6, 2012 Rating: 4.5/5

RV!: The Matrix Reloaded (2003) Dir: Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski Date Released: May 15, 2003 Date Seen: October 7, 2012 Rating: 3.5/5

RV!: The Matrix Revolutions (2003) Dir: Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski Date Released: November 5, 2003 Date Seen: October 8, 2012 Rating: 3/5

So I may be down in the dumps this week, and with good reason...reasons, actually. But hey, I did do this interview with the Wachowskis for the Village Voice. Cover story, even! Highlight of my year.