To Look or Not to Look

Have you ever had to look away from the screen while watching a movie because you couldn’t bear to see what happened next? Do you have a threshold tolerance level of what you will watch before you become outraged or repulsed and walk out of a film? There have certainly been controversial movies over the years – both art and exploitation features – that have tested the limits of what viewers will watch. Lars von Trier’s Antichrist (2009), Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible (2002), Meir Zarchi’s I Spit on Your Grave (1978), Nagisa Oshima’s In the Realm of the Senses (19776), Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975), and Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left (1972) are just a few of the more famous offenders that have provoked heated debates over censorship and creative expression. We now have a new test case – The Painted Bird (2019), Czech filmmaker Vaclav Marhoul’s big-screen adaptation of Jerzy Kosinski’s dark masterpiece from 1965.   Continue reading

The Film Noir That Got Away

Maggie Smith and George Nader in the film noir, Nowhere to Go (1958)

Maggie Smith and George Nader in the film noir, Nowhere to Go (1958)

Ealing Studios. The name conjures up memories of the great British comedies such as The Man in the White Suit, The Ladykillers, The Lavender Hill Mob and Kind Hearts and Coronets.  Film noir, however, is not the genre that usually comes to mind although Ealing rubbed shoulders with it occasionally in It Always Rains on Sunday (1947) and Pool of London (1951). Oddly enough, one of the studio’s final releases, Nowhere to Go (1958) was pure, unadulterated noir and a stylish, terse little thriller to boot. Sadly, it has been overlooked and unappreciated for years even though it marks the feature film debut of director Seth Holt and gave actress Maggie Smith her first major screen role.  Continue reading

Roman Polanski’s Lost Film

A Day at the Beach DVDThe headline is referencing the past, not the present, for A DAY AT THE BEACH, a film that Roman Polanski scripted and co-produced with his partner Gene Gutowski for their short-lived production company, Cadre Films, in 1969 finally surfaced on DVD in 2007 via Odeon Entertainment’s “The Best of British Collection” series in the U.K. and then in the U.S. in 2008, courtesy of Code Red, which specializes in re-releasing cult and lesser known genre films like Rituals (1977) and Group Marriage (1973).  For more than thirty five years, the film was considered lost after being shelved by Paramount following an unsuccessful limited release in Europe. But a serviceable print was discovered and preserved and any self-professed fan of Polanski’s films will want to check it out if they haven’t already.  It may not be “the lost Roman Polanski masterpiece” that the Code Red DVD cover promises but it is much more than a curiosity piece and quite compelling if you are in the mood for a bitter, bleak and harrowing character study.    Continue reading

Rififi in Tokyo

Rififi in Tokyo poster

Rififi in Tokyo poster

Rififi, Jules Dassin’s quintessential 1955 noir/heist thriller, had quite an impact on the European crime movie genre in its day, although most of its imitators or similarly inspired creations rarely found distribution in the U.S. except as English-dubbed second features in limited runs in a few major cities like New York. I have yet to read of any major film critics or movie buffs like Quentin Tarantino championing any of the Rififi knockoffs. But for anyone with a soft spot for heist films, you might enjoy sampling some of these lesser efforts, particularly RIFIFI IN TOKYO (1963).      Continue reading