There's no disputing Don Hertzfeldt's genius, but the unrelenting… MoreThere's no disputing Don Hertzfeldt's genius, but the unrelenting drone of his deadpan narration flattens the charm of his humble stick-figure animations. More importantly, his misanthropic perspective on life is so relentlessly black that you'll need a dose of "Mary Poppins" afterwards to regain your equilibrium. Not a guy whom I would be eager to meet.
More impressive is his ability to layer multiple images (both animated and otherwise) for hallucinatory effect. Some scenes have almost a Stan Brakhage-like appeal, as terminally ill protagonist Bill (his one distinguishing trait: a simple hat) free-associates about death and past traumas.
The Flixster/Rotten Tomatoes pages for this film are somewhat confused -- there are two Hertzfeldt works with this title. One is a 23-minute short and one is an expanded feature that's three times longer.
Directed by David Hemmings (star of "Blow Up"), "Just a Gigolo" is… MoreDirected by David Hemmings (star of "Blow Up"), "Just a Gigolo" is mostly just a curiosity for David Bowie fanatics. This notorious flop was filmed during Bowie's late-70s period in Berlin, and he's looking as traditionally handsome as he ever looked in younger days, so his fetishists will drool. The premise actually isn't so different from "The Graduate" -- a malleable naif rejoins the real world (in this case, post-WWI rather than post-college) and gets dubious advice from everyone about what he should do next. In this case, he ends up working as a dancehall gigolo. Except the script is an utter snooze. This slack tale is neither funny nor dramatic, and the plot is just as aimless as Bowie's character. One bonus: The powerhouse cast includes Curt Jurgens, Maria Schell, Kim Novak and (in her final appearance) Marlene Dietrich. She only has two brief scenes, but it's undeniably haunting to see her sign off her career by singing "...and life goes on without me." Hemmings has a small role as a Nazi organizer, and Sydne Rome scores points as a sexy torch singer who suddenly exits the movie about halfway through (did she leave to work on a better project?). Bowie himself does not perform onscreen, but did write a trivial street-performer's song that appears early in the action.
Six bizarre fetishists -- not necessarily focused on sex -- carry out… MoreSix bizarre fetishists -- not necessarily focused on sex -- carry out their unique, elaborate rituals in Jan Svankmajer's unsettling "Conspirators of Pleasure." Svankmajer, best known for stop-motion animations, turns his microscope onto live actors with predictably provocative results. He retains his coroner's eye, eternally digging into the inner gears and giblets of his subjects, but his ability to blur the line between people and machines is both a talent and a handicap. The guy just has no sense of humanity. But what a remarkable set of impossible behaviors he has constructed. Revealing too many details would spoil the fun (advice: skip this website's exhaustive synopsis), but let's just say the perverse games involve items like fur scraps, bread balls, false arms, rolling pins, live fish, porn mags, chicken masks, straw and a balloon of blood. It's just a shame that he is so endlessly fascinated with slurps, sloshes and squirts -- any chance he has for a tight shot of something (anything!) making an unpleasant noise, he grabs with gusto. The action literally turns nauseating at times.
Of course, the back story of "Boyhood"'s 12-year gestation is… MoreOf course, the back story of "Boyhood"'s 12-year gestation is irresistible. And you have to applaud writer/director Richard Linklater's nerve in presenting the Hollywood mainstream with a 165-minute movie that's about little more than everyday domestic conversations. But this bold experiment fails to satisfy in some peripheral ways. In focusing so intensely on the intimate relationships of a mother (Patricia Arquette) and her two children (Ellar Coltrane, Linklater's own daughter Lorelei), the film fails to have anything interesting to say about the world around them. It may be intriguing to watch Coltrane age so dramatically and turn shaggy, but more material about the evolving culture would have been preferred. Don't count on seeing much of this beyond a few glimpses of retro iPods and video games, plus one throwaway scene involving Obama/Biden campaign signs. The modest stories are wholly insular to the central family. The dialogue isn't as witty or insightful as one might expect from Linklater (the boy is wary of conformity, whoa), and the two sagas of marriages gone wrong are written rather heavy-handedly (uh oh, the husband is holding a drink...now we know he has turned into a Bad Man). "Boyhood" is certainly unique and interesting, but it's not recommended for anyone who isn't comfortable with talky, low-action movies.
This strangely forgotten film is a wonderful satire of the then-fresh… MoreThis strangely forgotten film is a wonderful satire of the then-fresh Watergate scandal. The Nixon administration's misdeeds are transported to a nunnery, in which the contentious election of a new abbess leads to bugged rooms and a strategic burglary that erupts into public scandal. Glenda Jackson is typically flawless as the ice-cold veteran who pulls the strings, but the stellar cast also includes Geraldine Page, Anne Meara, Sandy Dennis (hilarious as an oblivious dimwit) and Eli Wallach. The pious should be forewarned, however: These nuns are hardly filled with loving reverence. They conspire, smoke, curse and even have sex. Director Michael Lindsay-Hogg had been working in British television in the years preceding "Nasty Habits," but he probably learned something about internal power struggles from his previous feature: the infamous Beatles documentary "Let It Be."
New Wave icon Alain Resnais continues to test his audience with the… MoreNew Wave icon Alain Resnais continues to test his audience with the marvelous "Providence," a surreal tale in which a dying, cantankerous novelist (John Gielgud, never better) uses people from his life as placeholders to map out an unfinished book. The bulk of the film's action is taken straight from the writer's head and thus is pure fantasy. As if Gielgud's presence isn't impressive enough, the cast is loaded with other world-class talents such as Dirk Bogarde (dark and testy as ever), Ellen Burstyn, Elaine Stritch and David Warner. Warner does seem somewhat miscast, mainly seen as a guileless naif -- it's best to view this performance alongside early roles like "Morgan: A Suitable Case of Treatment" and "Work Is a 4-Letter Word" and forget all the sadistic villains he played later.
The internal story is primarily a love triangle in which Burstyn cheats on husband Bogarde with Warner. There's also a bizarre, undeveloped werewolf motif that hopefully was deleted from the book's final draft (this is a work in progress, after all). "Providence" is a delightful brainteaser -- just do your best to ignore how grating the characters' incessant wine-slurping becomes.
Apparently a cult classic in its homeland, "Rocker" could be… MoreApparently a cult classic in its homeland, "Rocker" could be charitably described as the German equivalent of "Easy Rider" or "The Harder They Come." The actors are amateurs and the script meanders, but "Rocker" does intriguingly capture the regional flavor of its time and place. Struggling to find a protagonist, the story focuses on different characters at different points but eventually settles upon a revenge scheme in which a pubescent boy recruits a fresh-from-prison biker to stalk some ridiculously coiffed lads who beat up and killed his car-stealing older brother. Director Klaus Lemke has little skill, and the acting is so weak that the boy even seems to break character and laugh during a few late scenes. Much of the budget probably went into the soundtrack, which includes choice songs from Led Zeppelin ("Rock and Roll"), Them ("It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"), Santana ("Black Magic Woman") and the Rolling Stones (three songs from Sticky Fingers). Some songs even appear more than once, presumably to milk maximum value from their licensing fees.