Every shot claustrophobic, Teshigahara has created perhaps the most suffocating horror movie I’ve seen. Layer upon layer of close quarters (the protagonist is imprisoned in a deep sand pit with small dark house living at the bottom) accompanied by extreme closeups of faces, skin, and falling sand, as well as a few shots outside the pit at nighttime in pitch darkness – all shot in a tight 4:3 aspect ratio – never lets the viewer feel any sense of open space. Every single shot works as a visual prison. And the film becomes even more impressive in its creepy psychological examination; the protagonist and the woman living in this prison of a house as game pieces for a group of disturbed villagers’ source of delight. It’s a haunting setup matched equally in unsettling nature by its fascinating ending. (I’m keeping this one spoiler-free but you won’t be able to stop thinking about it.) The film is never scary or even graphic, but the ideas and the way they are presented visually through the lighting and editing make it a truly horrific horror film. 8.75/10
Archive for the 1960s Category
I’ve seen a couple of films centering around the Wyatt Earp/Doc Holliday relationship, both ending with the Battle at OK Corral. But this is the first I’ve seen using that event as in introduction. Earp and Holliday are older here, more worn, and whether that was a directorial decision or actually more true to their ages in this stage of life, I don’t know. But I like the decision. Their weathered looks, gaits, and attitudes fit the style of film and bring to life the methodical mood present throughout. The tale is simple; Earp takes vengeance of the Clanton gang for killing his brother. But there are several pointless side characters and a half-hearted attempt to have Holliday talk some morality into Earp that don’t fit, and take away from the ‘hardened loners’ tone that would have played perfectly to this film’s strengths. I appreciate the different angle on these characters’ lives, but the young Earp/Holliday films are much better. 6.75/10
A film on memory, past relationships, and guilt disguised as a sci-fi. Our “time-traveling” protagonist visits flashes of his past – ocean swimming while his gal relaxes at the side, tidbits from various jobs, moments of pillow talk, outings around the town, and confessions of a dark secret to another woman. Though unconventionally, these flashes form a character and give us insight into what led to the film’s opening scene. However, they’re repetitive at times and after a while they feel long-winded. Also, the editing is so quick it often rattles the tone. But as they continue, they become more expanded, revealing both important events and important emotions; once the puzzle is complete, it’s a heartbreaking full picture. So from intrigued to bored to sympathetic, it’s a very good but flawed watch. 8/10
My first giallo style film, and my initial impression says it’s either going to take some time to get adjusted to the genre, or this just might not be a style that interests me. My issues with this one don’t really differ from the issues I have with most average American film noirs – overly narrated, extensively plotted, and emotionally unfocused. It started out fascinating. A man arrives in a remote city that he visits annually to discover the woman he remembers fondly from his last visit has died in the last year. There’s several beautiful flashbacks that include both the gorgeous landscapes of the small town and montaged memories of this woman. The real story of what caused this woman to die becomes quickly obvious and I was interested to see how our protagonist’s longing for this woman would contrast with his relationship with the people involved. Instead the sense of mystery (which now feels hollow) is prolonged and unnecessarily added to, and the film becomes unfocused and tiresome. At least the great cinematography and blustery small town atmosphere are consistent throughout, but that’s about it. 7/10
Anyone who follows this blog with any regularity knows that I spent a long time using the western as my go-to genre. Starting today, I’m adding another genre to my repertoire – British Misery Cinema. After reading an article in the December edition of Film Comment magazine on the genre, I realized that many films that I have a great respect for fall into this category. They’re often difficult to watch due to their honest depiction of human suffering, but I find them important because of that honesty.
To start, I re-visited a film I saw years ago that I didn’t even realize fell into this category until reading the article. In this ‘kitchen sink’ drama (this term refers to the working-class, domestic life setting often used in the 50s and 60s for the ‘misery’ movement), Richardson brings to life a sympathetic young protagonist who finds himself in a boy’s reformatory. After showcasing his ability of long distance running, he is allowed to leave the school grounds for training runs. It’s here where the film finds its footing. These gorgeously shot scenes are weaved in and out of memories and reminiscences – thoughts of flirtatious teenage romance, mischievous undertakings with friends, and a hard family life. Anyone who has ever done solo training runs knows how the mind wanders, and Richardson illustrates this perfectly. It’s a beautifully accurate film in regards to self-reflection and teenage life, and even as a distance runner, these aspects were far more involving than the film’s final race or the ‘fight the power’ message. I would have been fine with a film completely focused on actual isolation and the contemplative yearning it creates. 8.75/10
As a way to mix some of my old reviews in with my new reviews, I’m doing a Best of… Series. In this series, I will review my favorite movie of each year.
This movie was much more quiet, slow, and romantic than I could have ever expected, and it was fantastic. The meat of the film is told mostly in flashbacks as the present-time storyline is somewhat unimportant. (Well, from a plot standpoint. It’s actually very important in the way it illustrates the main character’s loneliness.) The flashbacks show us how the man comes to be where he is, as well as what he left behind, and it’s all done in a way I’ve rarely seen before. It almost reminded me of The New World in the way it treats its romantic relationship with its use of unconventional sound and image editing, and interwoven timelines. The present timeline, though I mentioned it was somewhat unimportant, was still amazingly poetic and photographed. I loved watching this man stumble upon many different interesting, calming places. Heck, even the dirty old plant he works at is made to be beautiful. I don’t really have any complaints about this movie except that I wish it were longer. 10/10
Up to this point, I’d only seen two Wiseman films, but they were two of the best documentaries I’ve seen. The subjects in both were fascinating and not the kinds of people we see on an everyday basis. With High School, that key strength is lost. I still found it interesting to watch the dynamics of a 1960s high school, especially comparing it to how high school is now (or was back in 2001). But when this was released, that value would not have been present. So….I’m having a little trouble seeing what would have possessed Wiseman to make this one (unless he really had historical significance in mind).
Luckily, the way he makes documentaries is still so great that this is not a bad film. Filming the fragmented pieces of the setting and the people that make up the setting is a unique way to document something. There are no talking heads, no question/answer sections, and no following of one main character or group. The pieces of many lives stirred together in a chaotic yet related way works for me. 7.5/10