Bowling, Pizza and Small Town Dreamers

Gary Lundgren is a writer/director who has been making feature films since 2009 but you might not have heard of him unless you came across one of his movies at a film festival. Despite a lack of exposure and spotty film distribution, he continues to go his own way and Phoenix, Oregon, his new film and fourth directorial effort, might possibly connect with audiences looking for something a little more personal and character-driven than the typical summer blockbuster releases. Continue reading

Advertisements

Labor Pains

When cinema buffs talk about their favorite movies from that brief period known as the “angry young man” phase of the British New Wave movement, one title is usually overlooked – The Angry Silence (1960) – and that might be due to the film’s more overt focus on labor unions, working conditions and corruption. Directed by Guy Green, The Angry Silence (1960) shares many similarities with others of its ilk with its harshly realistic depiction of a specific working class milieu, all of it captured in a gritty, documentary-like approach that was partially shot on location (Ipswich, Suffolk) using local nonprofessionals and real actors.  Continue reading

Mad Men Heyday

Matthew Weiner, the creator of AMC’s popular Mad Men franchise, has often pointed to specific films that influenced the look and feel of that popular TV series. Among them are obvious choices like Billy Wilder’s The Apartment (1960), Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (1959) and Fielder Cook’s Patterns (1956), based on Rod Serling’s teleplay, and less obvious influences such as David Lynch’s Blue Velvet and Claude Chabrol’s Les Bonnes Femmes (1960). One has to wonder though if Weiner ever saw the Jack Lemmon comedy Good Neighbor Sam (1964) because the art direction, production design and even the corporate politics on display seem to prefigure major aspects of Mad Men, albeit on a much lighter note. Continue reading

The Dogs of War

The title Werewolf invokes, especially among movie fans, images from the 1941 Universal horror classic The Wolf Man starring Lon Chaney Jr. and other descendants from that line like The Curse of the Werewolf (1961) and even the 2010 Benicio Del Toro reboot, The Wolfman. Polish filmmaker Adrian Panek’s Werewolf (aka Wilkolak, 2018) is not about that famous folklore legend but it does explore the bestial nature of man that emerges when people are brutalized and reduced to an animalistic state. It also qualifies as a horror film but not one set in a fantasy realm but in the grim aftermath of World War II.   Continue reading

Robert Frank and The Rolling Stones

Photographer/filmmaker Robert Frank (left) and Mick Jagger (right) on The Rolling Stones’ private jet during their 1972 tour of the U.S. to promote the album “Exile on Main Street” as depicted in the rock documentary Cocksucker Blues (1972).

After being withheld from release for 15 years, Gerald Fox’s Leaving Home, Come Home: A Portrait of Robert Frank, is finally receiving a U.S. theatrical release. Famous for his seminal 1958 collection “The Americans,” Swiss-born photographer Frank is no stranger to films being withheld from public viewing and one of his most infamous projects C*cksucker Blues, a behind-the-scenes account of The Rolling Stones’ 1972 tour of America, remains unreleased to this day.  Continue reading

Rene Clair’s Prophetic Fantasy

Film scholars generally agree that the silent era offerings (Entr’acte, Le Voyage Imaginaire) and early sound films of Rene Clair (Under the Roofs of Paris, Le Million) are the French writer-director’s finest work and deserve their exalted position in the history of cinema. But one shouldn’t discount the movies Clair made during his brief tenure in Hollywood from 1941 to 1945 where his subtle wit, sophistication and visual style were second only to the work of Ernst Lubitsch. The Flame of New Orleans (1941) with Marlene Dietrich and I Married a Witch (1942) starring Fredric March and Veronica Lake are delightful romantic comedies while And Then There Were None (1945) is an inventive adaptation of Agatha Christie’s thriller, Ten Little Indians. Much more underrated and lesser known is Clair’s It Happened Tomorrow (1944), which returns to the fantasy realm of earlier work like The Ghost Goes West (1935) and I Married a WitchContinue reading

Diary of a Mad Prairie Housewife

Every once in a while a film comes along that doesn’t conform to the expectations of its designated genre. A case in point is Emma Tammi’s debut feature The Wind (2018) from a screenplay by Teresa Sutherland that is being positioned as a horror film by its distributor IFC Midnight at selected theaters across the U.S. and streaming services after a critically acclaimed run on the film festival circuit. Yes, The Wind has the necessary ingredients to attract horror film fans such as ghosts, demonology and unexplained phenomena. But the film could also be described as a psychological thriller from a feminist perspective or even a period western in which an inhospitable landscape becomes a central character. Continue reading