How to best describe the 1922 Swedish film Haxan (also known as Witchcraft Through the Ages) by Danish director Benjamin Christensen? While not a conventional documentary by anyone’s standards, it is not a traditional narrative film either and straddles several genres in its exploration of witchcraft and the black arts from the Dark Ages up to 1921.Continue reading
I’ve always thought that you had to be a little crazy to be a great actor and Klaus Kinski was more than a little crazy. If you don’t believe me read his purple prose autobiography Kinski Uncut which was also published under the title All I Need is Love in 1988. Or watch Werner Herzog’s 1999 film biography Mein liebster Feind (My Best Fiend-Klaus Kinski) about the German director’s volatile relationship with the actor. Better yet, try to get your hands on Paganini (aka Kinski Paganini), the actor’s only directorial effort and his final film, which was released in 1989. For those with all-region DVD players, you can still find PAL copies of it on Amazon’s German web site in a double disc release from SPV Recordings. If you thought Ken Russell’s film biographies of Tchaikovsky (The Music Lovers, 1970) and Liszt (Lisztomania, 1975) were excessively over-the-top and in flamboyant bad taste, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Paganini also features supporting roles for French actor Bernard Blier (Les Miserables, 1958), Dalilia Di Lazzaro (Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, 1973), Eva Grimaldi (Joe D’amoto’s Convent of Sinners, 1986), Marcel Marceau as – big surprise – a pantomine artist and Kinski’s wife Debora Capriolglio in her first lead role.
That was how director Ken Russell described his production of Billion Dollar Brain (1967). Whether that claim is true or not, Russell maintained it was the main reason the third entry in the Harry Palmer spy series failed at the box office. To be totally honest, none of the competing rivals in the film – Russia, the U.K., Latvia and the U.S. – are preferable over the other and come across as cynical, opportunistic entities that are only focused on their own agendas and self interests. Seen today, Billion Dollar Brain is easily most entertaining film in the five-movie franchise and deserves a reappraisal. Continue reading
Looking for a Halloween film to creep you out? How about The Blood on Satan’s Claw? Continue reading
One of the few films to emerge from Britain’s punk rock movement of the mid-seventies that succinctly expressed the anger and anarchic spirit of the times, Jubilee (1978) is possibly director Derek Jarman’s most accessible film though its irreverent mixture of history, fantasy and agitprop shot, guerilla-style, on the back streets of London is not for everyone. The loosely structured film has a framing device that is set in the year 1578 as Queen Elizabeth I ponders the future of her country. Along with her court magician, Dr. John Dee, and lady-in-waiting, she is transported to contemporary England by the angel Ariel. There she finds a mirror image of herself as Bod, the leader of an outlaw band of deviants, who struggles for dominance in a post-Margaret Thatcher wasteland controlled by the fascist media mogul Borgia Ginz. Continue reading