Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Mummy (1932)

Second viewing; first viewed on October 27, 1991.

The mummy of a priest from ancient Egypt comes back to life and assumes a new identity. He becomes obsessed with a young woman whom he thinks is the reincarnation of his lover in his previous life.

I am still pondering whether the sheer absurdity of its plot is just out of stupidity or something else -- something akin to genius. I am not talking here about the film's premise, which is silly, of course, and which has had an enduring influence on popular culture. I am talking about the specific plot point that has a character find his reincarnated lover, and makes him go to the trouble of killing her so that she may be revived with an ancient spell. Really, this is too precious for words. Aside from script matters, the film as a whole is, to my judgment, exceedingly well made, and lets out no clue whatsoever as to the humorous potential of its plot in general or the point I raised in particular.

Rating: 57 (down from 70)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Fogo Morto (1976)

English title: The Last Plantation.

Based on the novel by José Lins do Rego, first published in 1943.

Set at a decaying sugarcane plantation in Northeastern Brazil, the film has three main characters: a saddle-maker who lives in the plantation, the plantation owner who drives it to ruin and is obsessed with religion, and a man with political ambitions.

A flawed film, probably due to a deficient screenplay. Still, the subject matter and the characters are interesting, and some parts of it are reasonably well filmed.

Rating: 40

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Adieu au langage (2014)

English title: Goodbye to Language.

There is only a faintly discernible semblance of a plot, which involves a young woman, her husband, and a new man she takes as a lover. There is also a dog who wanders by river banks and groves. The dialogue is mostly a series of repetitive slogans and scholarly or literary quotations. Political theory and human feces are some of the subjects of discussion. Some social turmoil is vaguely suggested in some scenes. Natural landscapes are filmed with color distorting filters. A big ship is recurringly shown as it docks at a harbor. A pun with the movie's title is shown in intertitles. There is an apparent segmentation into two sections named "Nature" and "Metaphor".

There is really little that can be said about this film. It seems to be a series of rough ideas for a movie which are shown "as is" instead of being elaborated further. I suspect that this is part of a strategy intended to conceal the probable badness of a hypothetical finished movie with another kind of badness which, somehow, poses as artistic attitude.

Rating: 17

Friday, April 21, 2017

Forushande (2016)

English title: The Salesman.

A couple has to move from their apartment because the building starts to fall apart. After a suggestion by a colleague of the husband, they move to a new one. A disagreeable incident occurs in there which provokes a crisis in their marriage.

Here is a film trying to be smart and failing in almost all counts. Although by the end of it what it is trying to say becomes reasonably clear, the paths it takes to say it are often puzzling. The most puzzling point for me was the whole subplot about the stuff the previous tenant left locked in their apartment. It is given an enormous emphasis which contrasts with the little to no bearing it has on what I perceived to be the main events of the movie. Maybe there is something here which is too subtle for my coarse sensibility. Aside from that, I am afraid that the film conveys a worldview which I do not espouse, and perhaps do not even understand. I call it defeatist, for lack of a better word. I was going to say weak, but I would be wrong, because I can sympathize with weakness, but never with defeatism. Looking back, I have the impression that this criticism might apply to The Separation as well, but I suspect the narrative there was fluid enough to trick me into liking it.

Rating: 40

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)

Third viewing; previous viewings were on March 24, 1990 and March 6, 1991.

A worker at a small flower shop is growing a carnivore plant, and the shop's owner decides to take advantage of the exotic plant in order to attract customers.

Nice little comedy, with original ideas and a general atmosphere of irreverence. Nevertheless, I feel it doesn't quite deserve the high rating I had bestowed upon it. Its overall look and comic style is somewhat TV-like, and the humor is at times a bit facile.

Rating: 67 (down from 85)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Saint-Tropez Blues (1961)

Young man invites young woman to go to French beach town Saint-Tropez during school vacation, and asks her to take her father's car for the trip. Along the route they pick up another young man, and during their stay in that town they meet many beautiful people. There is a problem though: he wants her to be his girlfriend, but she refuses. Another complicating factor is that she is a virgin.

Not too densely plotted, as has been said by many, but as a chronicle of a place and a time it isn't bad. The locations are terrific, and there are some nice songs too.

Rating: 51

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Meu Destino É Pecar (1952)

Woman moves to a farm after marrying a man she doesn't love. She must deal with the advances of his lecherous brother, the hostility of his sister, and the coldness of his mother. Above all this hangs the shadow of his former wife, whose death is wrapped in a cloud of mystery.

Atrocious rip-off of Carolina Nabuco's A Sucessora. There are however some minor niceties such as its locations, a lovely song number, and a well-choreographed dance with African motifs. An earlier rip-off of  A Sucessora was Rebecca.

Rating: 12

Monday, April 17, 2017

Les patates (1969)

English title: Potatoes.

During World War II, in the Ardennes, which was part of the zone interdite (forbidden zone), people are experiencing hunger due to strict regulations concerning the transportation of food items across its borders. One man decides to try to smuggle some potatoes from outside and use them to grow a new crop.

Comedy which makes for an interesting history lesson, and an entertaining one, too. Even though there is death and the overhanging shadow of starvation, humor sets the tone, in a very down-to-earth manner which never feels forced or improper.

Rating: 60

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Witch Hunt (1994)

In the 1950s, magic becomes a common practice in Hollywood. A crooked senator opposes it vehemently. A private detective who refuses to use it is hired by a starlet to spy on her unfaithful producer husband. The two story threads intersect when the latter character is murdered.

Apparently, this is a silly movie. They have taken the titular figure of speech and de-figured it, that is, played it to its literal meaning in the same historical context. Christopher Mulrooney points to a second metaphor, namely, digital visual effects, of which this film gives abundant display.

Rating: 32

Cronos (1993)

A 16th-century alchemist builds a device for prolonging life indefinitely. Four centuries later, it is franticaly searched for, and accidentally found by an antiques dealer, who applies it to himself, with ghastly consequences.

Science-fiction with no real grip on science. Very tedious as storytelling, but people seem to have liked it. The main actor is good, anyway.

Rating: 21

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)

Second viewing. I do not know the date of my first viewing; I estimate it to be around 1982.

An artistic photographer has visions of murders which actually take place involving her models or associates. A police detective takes on the case and gets into a romantic relationship with her.

American giallo with superior production values. People who have complained about the ending probably do not get the rules of the genre, amongst which is a disdain for psychological plausibility. Another rule is that the plot must be moderately to extremely tedious. I thought this to be on the side of moderately.

Ratio: 44 (unchanged)

Friday, March 31, 2017

True Believer (1989)

A lawyer with a background as a civil rights militant now specializes in drug cases; he hires a young assistant who persuades him to take the case of an unjustly imprisoned Korean immigrant.

The main character exemplifies Millôr Fernandes's adage: "Never trust an idealist who profits from his ideal". He eventually comes to terms with his conscience, with the unexpected bonus of discovering that the case he took was not really a departure from his specialization (civil rights violations as a result of drug repression). Criminal drama with a liberal slant, done with a modicum of intelligence and very professionally.

Rating: 51

Gabbeh (1996)

Set in rural Iran, this is about a young woman who encounters successive obstacles to her marriage with a man she fancies.

This could perhaps have been a better film if more resources were applied to its production. The actors here clearly cannot act, most of them anyway, and the script has a somewhat disjointed structure, with poorly written dialogue. But there are some good ideas and the premise has some potential; its main asset is the lovely display of color mainly on women's clothes.

Rating: 48

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Punisher (1989)

A vigilante had been wiping out several members of the mafia, but now the police believe him to be dead. When the head of that criminal organization returns to the U.S.A., there is speculation over the biological status and possible new actions by the aforementioned independent executioner. A headstrong policeman has his own ideas about the vigilante's identity, and has pursued a solitary investigation to find and apprehend him.

Mildly rewarding as a testosterone-fueled thriller, yet severely lacking in the dramatic department-- the subplot about the motivations of the cop for chasing the Punisher is borderline retarded. What is most problematic about this film, and also with the Batman films, is that they are based on a concept -- that of individual vigilantism -- which is, to the best of my knowledge, absent from reality.

Rating: 33

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

O Despertar da Besta (1969)

Alternate title: O Ritual dos Sádicos.

English title: Awakening of the Beast.

One or more gangs are kidnapping young women and administering drugs to them in order to make them perform sex acts for perverted men. Concurrently, an assembly of intellectuals debate the effects of drugs.

A blend of Reefer Madness and Corman's The Trip, this fits neatly in the exploitation category, wherein a theme is exploited for its shock appeal rather than being legitimately explored into its causes and consequences. Well, anyway, it was voted one of the best 100 Brazilian films, go figure. And, God knows, it might actually be, Brazilian films being so bad in their majority... This film marks a contrast with the earlier work of its diretor. The taste for shocking imagery is still present, and here there is the extra bonus of some impressive color cinematography in the hallucination sequences, but the raw power of those earlier works, which, perhaps unwittingly, dissected the very core of Brazilian machismo ideology, is gone, and the Coffin Joe character is replaced by its maker-as-character, now a celebrity of sorts.

Rating: 31