Movie Diary 4/27/2015

Tell England (Anthony Asquith, Geoffrey Barkas, 1931). Two upper-class British soldiers go off to join the Great War; they are sent to the Eastern front in Gallipoli. Despite some early-sound-era rough edges, this is a remarkably ambitious and inventive picture, full of expressive modern touches. As a soldier’s worried mother (Fay Compton) listens to a society friend prattle on, she stares into the middle distance and the soundtrack is replaced by military music, the camera holding on her face for an unusual amount of time. Startling transitions from scene to scene and machine-gun editing in battle scenes indicate an avant-garde tendency. The storming of the beach by ANZAC soldiers (shot on Malta) anticipates Saving Private Ryan by almost 70 years, and fades out on the image of a dead soldier’s head moving side-to-side as the surf comes gently in and out. Even the comedy is barbed: One letter-writing private turns to a friend and asks, “How d’you spell massacre?” He is assured the word has “only one k.” (Screened as part of a WWI series at Edinburgh Filmhouse.)

Water Amour (This Week’s Movies)

Christian Friedel, Birte Schnoeink: Amou Fou

Christian Friedel, Birte Schnoeink: Amour Fou

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald and Seattle Weekly, and etc.

The Water Diviner. “Crowe’s desire to say a few things while telling a very sincere story.” (In case of Herald paywall, Weekly version here.)

Amour Fou. “Almost a parody of the Great Author subgenre.” (Weekly version here.)

At the Overlook Podcast, Steve Scher and I talk about the Star Wars trailer, and why anybody would review a trailer, and whether one of us is less excited about the upcoming installment of the space opera than the other person. Listen up here.

Movie Diary 4/21/2015

The Edge of the World (Michael Powell, 1937). Back in the old times – not in the 1930s, but far enough back for 16 mm. to still be a “platform” for exhibition – I think the Seattle Film Society might have had the local premiere of this. That’s a long time to go between viewings, but what a film. A haunting experience, with more than a touch of folklore and fairy tale contained within its drama and documentary aspects. Shot on the island of Foula. Eh, how do you get there, exactly?

Movie Diary 4/20/2015

Amour Fou (Jessica Hausner, 2014). A take on the Romantic (note capital R) end of Heinrich von Kleist’s life, in which the great German author executed a suicide pact with Henriette Vogel. The movie takes Vogel’s perspective, seeing her in a domestic trap along the lines of a Douglas Sirk melodrama, except set in 1811 Germany. It’s kind of a comedy, though, and a demolition of the straight-faced artist biopic (and of most Romantic notions). The actors are uncannily well-cast – see their faces, and you understand everything. Hausner also did Lourdes, a very original oddball thing from 2009. (full review 4/24)

1971 Backcountry (This Week’s Movies)

Missy Peregrym: Backcountry

Missy Peregrym: Backcountry

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald and Seattle Weekly, and etc.

Backcountry. “See, this is why I don’t go camping.” (In case of Herald paywall, Weekly version here.)

1971. “No contemporary viewer will see this as a period piece.” (Weekly version here.)

At the Overlook Podcast, Steve Scher and I talk about Hal Hartley’s new one, Ned Rifle, and other random matters. Listen up here.

Movie Diary 4/16/2015

Camouflage (Krzysztof Zanussi, 1977). The director himself talked about his great film at the Edinburgh Filmhouse. He took a photograph of the audience and revealed that he uses 35 mm. film – in his still camera, at least. I had a chance to ask him about the very ending of the movie, which I have always loved. Thankfully I did not have a copy of my long-winded programme note from 30 years ago to press into his hand.

The Water Diviner (Russell Crowe, 2015). A very old-fashioned kind of movie, but perhaps one expected that from Mr. Crowe. He plays an Aussie father who goes to Gallipoli in 1919 to search for the remains of his soldier sons. (full review 4/24)

Movie Diary 4/14/2015

Backcountry (Adam MacDonald, 2014). I can still see myself sprawled out on the living-room floor, reading a long Look magazine article about bear attacks and how some people managed to survive them, and how other people didn’t. In other words, this movie about straying hikers who hear funny sounds in the woods managed to spook me in ways that movies about non-existent things like ghosts and demons never do. (full review 4/17)

1971 (Johanna Hamilton, 2014). Documentary account of the break-in at an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania; the leaked papers exposed J. Edgar Hoover’s attempts to infiltrate the antiwar movement, and other squalid things. The true story is so good you can forgive the dramatic re-enactments. (full review 4/17)

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