Kings (This Week’s Movies)


Elvis Presley, The King (courtesy Oscilloscope Laboratories)

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

The King. “Jarecki’s after the big picture, and that’s part of the problem. ” (Herald link here.)

For the Scarecrow Video blog, I have something on Elvis movies. Read it here.


Movie Diary 7/3/2018

Ambush in Leopard Street (J. Henry Piperno, 1962). Standard B-movie rubbish, but the genre appeal and a watchable cast make it all right at one hour long. A group of experienced thieves, plus one newcomer (James Kenney, star of the revolting-youth picture Cosh Boy), plan a jewelry heist. One of the other thieves is played by Norman Rodway, who would shortly be playing Hotspur in Orson Welles’ Chimes at Midnight.

Movie Diary 7/1/2018

Sicario: Day of the Soldado (Stefano Sollima, 2018). Things are constantly easing into the frame in Sollima’s visual scheme for the film, an anxiety-producing style that fits the subject. The Sicario movies are interesting test cases for intention vs. effect discussions; I don’t doubt the filmmakers want to show sympathy for Mexicans caught between cartel violence and blunt U.S. policies, but the film leaves the impression of Mexico as a hellhole. Not that the U.S. comes off much better.

The Dove on the Roof (Iris Gusner, 1973/2009). An East German film, initially banned, later revived in a black-and-white version (it was shot in color). It unfolds in a very mod, cryptic style, revolving around a construction-site manager (Heidemarie Wenzel) whose love life skitters between two men, one too old and one too young. The people and places are interesting to look at.

Trace Sunshine (This Week’s Movies)


Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, Ben Foster: Leave No Trace (courtesy Bleecker Street)

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

Leave No Trace. “The beautifully observed details of this heroine’s journey are heartbreaking.” (Herald link here.)

Sicario: Day of the Soldado. “Effective enough even though the plot depends on a couple of very big coincidences.”

For my latest Seasoned Ticket column at the Scarecrow Video blog, I say a few words about Claire Denis’ new film, Let the Sunshine In, and recommend a few previous films by this one-of-a-kind filmmaker. Read it here.


Movie Diary 6/27/2018

The King (Eugene Jarecki, 2018). The documentary about Elvis, which would also very much like to be a Statement. (full review 7/4)

The Good Die Young (Lewis Gilbert, 1954). Heavy on melodrama, but this crime picture has the kind of set-up I like: strangers come together to attempt a heist, each man with his own well-described reasons for breaking bad. A very watchable cast indeed: Laurence Harvey is a scoundrel (duh) who needs cash because his wealthy wife (Margaret Leighton) is finally getting wise to him; Richard Basehart is an American in London collecting wife Joan Collins from her needy mother; John Ireland is a serviceman ditched by his wife, a would-be starlet played in vintage form by Gloria Grahame; Stanley Baker is a boxer whose final fight leads to the amputation of his hand, thus crimping his plans for a simple workingman’s life. Robert Morley plays Harvey’s father. Some decent noir shooting, if not exactly crisply paced.

Movie Diary 6/26/2018

Farewell (aka Abschied, Egon Günther, 1968). A very New Wave kind of approach in this East German tale of a boy formed by (in the sense of reacting against) the stuffy bourgeois manners of his parents and the brutality of his classmates. Lots of interesting stuff, including the portrayal of war fever and the chockablock storytelling. (There’s also a distinct gulf between the Sixties look of some of the design – and the haircuts – and the time period.) Might’ve been a little stronger with a more dynamic lead actor; the Brian Jones-like Jan Spitzer doesn’t bring a lot to the table (though he went on to have a long career). Some very impressive, and muscular, black-and-white widescreen cinematography. The movie was a little too interesting for the authorities, and its exposure was limited.

Movie Diary 6/25/2018

Naked Among Wolves (Frank Beyer, 1963). Set in Buchenwald, in the final days before the Americans arrived in 1945. A child is smuggled into camp, and at first this threatens to become a sentimental story hook. But soon the film turns to the strategies of survival in the camp (including the Nazis’ anxiety about what their status will be after the liberation), and it becomes an absorbing study of inhumanity and endurance. Beyer also directed the very funny Carbide and Sorrel and the later banned Traces of Stones. The cast here includes Armin Mueller-Stahl.

Berlin Around the Corner (Gerhard Klein, 1965/1990). A sincere, if sometimes disjointed, portrait of factory workers – both young and old – who may be feeling the shortcomings of the socialist dream. Klein and screenwriter Wolfgang Kohlhaase had previously made Berlin – Schönhauser Corner, a film that caught the wave of the youth movement in 1957; this one was not so lucky, and before it was edited it was banned by a new regime of state censorship. It was finally put together and screened after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

For Eyes Only (Janos Veiczi, 1963). An East German spy picture, sometimes hilariously campy though fairly tiresome overall. All the usual conventions are in place, but done in a cheapjack manner. The inspiration was an actual spy who brought documents back from West Germany that were trumpeted as proof that the West was going to attack the GDR; it was decades later that the revelations turned out to be entirely fake.