Review of WW2 supernatural mystery Soldiers of the Damned over at Flickering Myth …
My Darling Clementine Blu-ray Review at Flickering Myth and below…
John Ford’s classic Western gets a prestigious release on Blu-ray containing a stagecoach load of extras and features uncovering the legend of Ford and his personal vision of the Wild West.
My Darling Clementine is a perfect example of Ford’s brand of pure Western, containing elements of gun-toting action, wry humour and episodic tragedy. An overriding bleakness informs the film, which at its heart is an examination of the relationship between the Marshall of Tombstone, Wyatt Earp (a definitive role for Henry Fonda) and the morally ambiguous, tuberculosis suffering Doc Holliday (Victor Mature).
Focusing on the events that inspire the famous battle, the film takes us on the route taken by the Earp brothers as they lead a herd of cattle to California. Tiring from the heat, and with the animals in dire need of food and rest, they hear about the nearby town of Tombstone. Deciding to take a look, the older brothers leave youngest James with the cattle, while they check out the opportunities.
Wyatt soon realises what kind of a town Tombstone is – if the name itself wasn’t enough of a hint – when a drunk wild-man starts randomly shooting at locals. Wyatt takes him on and easily defeats him. Returning to the cattle, he and his brothers find James dead, and the animals gone.
Wyatt agrees to become Marshall to uncover exactly who murdered his brother and in order extract revenge. Along the way he meets Doc Holliday, Clementine Carver (Cathy Downs) and local saloon entertainer Chihuahua (Linda Darnell). The grim vagabond band of the Clanton gang are also an integral part of the ensemble.
Ford’s film was partly based on a fictionalised biography of Wyatt Earp named Frontier Marshall, which is also the name of a 1939 film included in this deluxe edition.
The stirring movie is an undisputed classic and a touchstone both in Ford’s career and in American cinema in general. A terrific starting point for anyone looking for an education in American folklore and mythology, My Darling Clementine stands alongside Stagecoach and The Searchers as one of the directors best-loved movies.
Review of Marco Ferreri’s La Grande Bouffe is over at Flickering Myth and below…
The elegiac chaos of La Grande Bouffe – literally the big eat – created something of a storm at the 1973 Cannes festival, with self-confessed lover of jests Ferreri being forced to defend his work amidst an onslaught from local and international press. Reports that president of the jury Ingrid Bergman was sick while watching the film only went on to further immortalise its controversial nature.
While the sheer affront that many took to the film in 1973 looks rather old-fashioned now, the underlying principles at work still resonate today. In essence, the film is a pitch black comedy, examining in great detail precisely how four friends can go about eating themselves to death. Taking in the prime physiological impulses of mankind; food, drink and sex, Ferreri leaves us in no doubt that we are all part of the animal kingdom, no matter how prestigious our pay-packet or how luxurious the banqueting hall.
Taken on one level, La Grande Bouffe is simply a film about friendship; a European gross-out ‘bro movie’ complete with call-girls, loud farts, burps and truckloads of food and booze. While this show of filmic bravura is at the heart and belly of the piece, those looking for more can easily find it within the three rooms of the grand old villa.
As is ever the case, critics and scholars have looked into the workings of the film’s plot for a philosophical and political subtext. The fact that the four friends are all members of the professional bourgeoisie; an airplane pilot, a TV producer, a judge and a restaurant owner, suggests the true target of the piece. By the time a local schoolmistress joins them, the decadent fall of society is portrayed in glaring and provocative detail.
It is the prostitutes that the men hire to come over to the villa who seem to represent any hope for society. They have the sense to be repelled by the macabre feast, and get out of there while they still can. Again, an academic seeking symbolism would offer the suggestion that they represent the working classes or possibly outsiders and artists.
So taken on another level, it is the consumerist nature of modern city life, with its devaluing of emotion and lack of awareness of reality that prevents any genuine connection to one’s own life. The equating of food and consumerism with death and the overriding bleakness of tone contrasts wildly with the childlike exuberance of the festivities on show, and points to the two sides of a jester’s work; to entertain and to point out the obvious. We are left to draw our own conclusions. But one that resounds is that middle class ennui and the desire to consume to death are by-products of modern lives and attitudes. And strangely enough, that’s a lot funnier than it sounds.
Arrow Films have put together a selection of features and extras for the restored Blu-ray release of La Grande Bouffe. These include a detailed booklet with original artwork and writing inspired by the film, interviews, visual essays and lively press coverage from Cannes 1973.
Blu ray review of The Burning over at Flickering Myth now…
Part eco-thriller, part revenge western, The Burning is a Spanish-language Argentinian production bristling with both ambition and unflinching worthiness. Unfortunately, the plot itself never really catches alight, and a presentation of clichéd characters and one-trick motivations does little to inspire…
Is there a party going on upstairs?
Because, I can’t sleep and the reason might be there
It’s a low drone and a bass-line repeat
Combined with anxious crawl and stifling heat
It’s a ragtime
Of dubious fun
A rough and roll festival
With phasers set to stun
The drum-roll won’t quit
And I’m soaking up the quilt
With growing resentment
And disquiet to the hilt
…But just wait
And pause for
On closer inspect, the culprit’s my pulse
And rhythmic heart beat
As an example of being out of touch
It takes the biscuit, the burger and the Caramel Crunch
I must be unaware of where I am in the world
But the need to reassess stands out unfurled
I am in this head
And in this frame
Time to accept
My body, my mind
My review of Manglehorn is over at Flickering Myth now.
With a story bristling with an emotional frailty that is both overstated and jarring, Manglehorn is often just as awkward as the lead character’s name. An exercise in observing just what happens when a bitter old man gets older and bitterer; David Gordon Greene’s film is, to put it bluntly, something of a struggle.
The fact that it stars Pacino – an actor who is almost always engaging no matter who he is playing – only goes to show how weak the script and overall scope of the film is. While it’s true that Pacino is eminently watchable and listenable, unfortunately in this case that gruff world-weary voice of his is intoning formulaic lines and cliché. Put it like this – you know it’s a problem when Al’s feline co-star out guns him in the interesting stakes.
Pacino plays A.J. Manglehorn, an isolated small-town locksmith who has never quite got what he wants out of life. He spends his time tied up at work with the keys and locks of his work place, acting out a poorly constructed metaphor of how he just can’t unlock the keys to his heart.
Obsessed with the memory of a former lover, we follow Manglehorn through disjointed scenes of him feeding his beloved Persian cat Fanny, partying with local massage parlour owner Harmony Korine and attempting to stabilise his relationship with his successful businessman son Chris Messina.
Into this day-to-day cycle steps bank teller Holly Hunter, the only truly likeable character in the film (apart from the cat that is). She and Manglehorn have a stilted romantic liaison which he looks set to ruin at any point, simply by being himself. In the background there is a hint of a criminal past, but as with much of the story, it doesn’t really go anywhere.
And that’s pretty much it.
The film suffers largely from not really knowing what it wants to do. There are moments of oddly dark slapstick humour when Pacino lets off some steam in that trademarked bravura style of his. Trouble is, it all seems a bit forced and at odds with the haphazard nature of much of the rest of it. Quite a shame, as it’s a film – as any starring Pacino always is – that everyone will want to like and enjoy. However, what we want and what we get sure as hell are not always the same thing.