Preston Sturges’ Off-Season Yuletide Homage

For many people the Christmas holidays wouldn’t be complete without a viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street or some version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol whether it features Reginald Owen, Alastair Sims, Mr. Magoo or Bill Murray. But there’s no reason why Preston Sturges’ Christmas in July (1940) shouldn’t become an annual seasonal favorite as well. Granted, it doesn’t take place in December, contains no wintry, snow-covered landscapes or appearances by Santa Claus but like the Frank Capra and Charles Dickens favorites it conveys the spirit of Christmas, one of selfless giving and generosity to those less fortunate than you. It also reaffirms the importance of family and friends over the materialistic traps of the world but accomplishes it with wit and high style in a breathlessly paced sixty-seven minute rollercoaster ride.  Continue reading

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A Paranormal Puberty

Yasmine Dahm plays Sophie, a young girl who sets off a chain of poltergeist activity in Au Rendez-Vous de la Mort Joyeuse (1973, aka Expulsion of the Devil).

Although Luis Bunuel never made a straight up horror film in the traditional sense, many of his movies contained elements of the horrific and the fantastical such as the “mother meat” nightmare sequence in Los Olvidados (1950), the severed, crawling hand in The Exterminating Angel (1962) or the Devil in his many disguises in the 45 minute allegory, Simon of the Desert (1965). However, Juan Luis Bunuel, the director’s son, launched his feature film career with an audacious and unsettling journey into the paranormal – Au Rendez-Vous de la Mort Joyeuse (1973, aka Expulsion of the Devil) which must have made his father proud as it was brimming with the sort of anarchic disregard for the conventional and corruption of the innocent that distinguishes the master’s best films. It’s also creepy as hell.      Continue reading

Russian Road Rage and Car Catastrophes

What is your worst car wreck nightmare? Is it a drunk or out-of-control driver who is speeding and suddenly swerves into your lane for a head-on collision? Or maybe it’s rounding a curve in the road too fast and breaking through the guard rail to land in the river below. Perhaps it is the unpredictability of an icy road where a speeding truck has jack-knifed and is now sliding sideways at 70mph toward your car. All of these and more are just a few of the accidents and mayhem on display in The Road Movie (2016), Dmitrii Kalashnikov’s compilation of car-cam footage from Russian drivers, which I saw at the November 2017 Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville. Continue reading