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Blu-Ray Review: Le jour se lève

Director: Marcel Carné
Screenplay: Jacques Viot & Jacques Prévert
Starring: Jean Gabin, Jacqueline Laurent, Arletty, Jules Berry
Producer: Jean-Pierre Frogerais
Country: France
Running Time: 91 min
Year: 1939
BBFC Certificate: PG


The best thing about being sent screeners of old classics to review is that it can open your eyes to films which you’ve not heard of as well as those that have passed you by. My most recent discovery, Le jour se lève (a.k.a. Daybreak), falls into the latter and appears to be fairly unknown or at least unseen by critics and film buffs in general, despite its director Marcel Carné enjoying decades of success with Les Enfants du paradis. Supposedly Le jour se lève was very well received on release and has been considered the equal to, if not better than, Renoir’s La Règle du jeu which was released in the same year. You only have to look at Sight and Sound’s highly regarded Top Ten Greatest Films of All Time Poll, run every decade, to see how their paths have since veered. In the first poll in 1952, Le jour se lève was placed at joint 7th, higher than La Règle du jeu at joint 10th. As the decades went on though, Renoir’s classic jumped to number 3 and has never left the top 4 since. Carné’s film, on the other hand, dropped out straight away in the 60’s and has never returned. It wasn’t even in the top 50 of the 2012 poll. Part of the reason may be because the film was almost lost in the late 1940’s, when RKO acquired the rights to the film so that they could remake it and sought to buy up and destroy every copy available. It re-appeared in the 50’s though. The critics of Cahiers du cinéma, who would come to make up the French New Wave movement, are known to have dismissed Carné, claiming his writing collaborator Jacques Prévert was the real genius behind his work, so perhaps they were to blame. Whatever the reason, Le jour se lève has become a distant memory in cinema’s history books.
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Occultober – Day 5 – Indiana Jones And The Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Originally pitched as “Indiana Jones goes to Hell,” by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, the second instalment of the wildly popular archeologist adventure franchise is loved and loathed by many for a variety of reasons (the endless screaming of female singer Willie Scott, casual racist depiction of India and China.) It also features a dark red colour palette and some of the most scary imagery in the franchise. The scary cult of Kali in the underground eponymous temple boast impressive set design and a wealth of memorable images. And this film was pitched as a kids film, and along with Joe Dante’s Gremlins came out in the same year (1984) was the reason why the American “PG-13″ was created. The whole sequence of drinking the black blood of Kali, the brainwashing of Indy, and the full sacrifice ritual are as effective (even in its exaggeration) as anything else in more ‘serious-minded’ occult cinema.
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Occultober – Day 4 – Night of the Demon

Night of the Demon (1957)
Director Jacques Tourneur, who often collaborated with producer Val Lewton, delivers a very thought-heavy horror film on faith and respect of the unknown things in our universe versus stubborn skepticism. Maybe a precursor to the X-Files long before Mulder and Scully got into the game, albeit here the male-female pairing (both psychologists) are in reverse.

When the diabolical Dr. Julian Karswell (Niall MacGinnis) summons a demon to kill a professor trying to debunk his power, the professor’s niece (Peggy Cummins) and American colleague, John Holden (Dana Andrews), are on the case to find out what happened. After a bizarre and memorable chat at a children’s Halloween party, with Karswell in clown make-up happily doing cute magic tricks for the kids, Karswell puts a curse on Holden: A demon will arrive in three days to claim his life.
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Review: Gone Girl

Gone-Girl

Marriage as hell is a common enough theme in the movies, and Gone Girl is whip-smart, provocative, and divorced from reality in all the right ways.

David Fincher’s Gone Girl is both a career retrospective of his common themes: Killers, geniuses, social hackers, institutions as head-space (here wedlock), and cat-and-mouse gamesmanship. At one point a character comments on the name of Nick Dunne’s bar: “The Bar,” as amusingly meta. The casting of Affleck himself, an almost-A-list actor who has gone through the love-hate tabloid cycle with his relationships and his movies, is perfect. Nick Dunne goes through a similar cycle as the movie moves through its meticulous contortions. At times it feels like Fincher was not satisfied enough with balance of realism and momentum in The Game, and felt the need to remake it as spousal oneupmanship. Gone Girl is a dark delight if you have a certain mindset.
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VIFF 2014 Review: Elephant Song

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ElephantSong

If there is one person winning at VIFF this year, it’s got to be Canadian bad boy Xavier Dolan. Not only has he impressed the crowd with his stunning directorial effort Mommy but he’s appeared in no less than two other films screening at the festival. The first, a middling drama from Daniel Grou (the only memorable part of that film are the performances, particularly that of Dolan) and now Elephant Song, a period drama based on a play of the same name.

Directed by Charles Binamé, Elephant Song stars Dolan as Michael Aleen, a troubled young man committed to an asylum and his afternoon chat with Dr. Toby Green (Bruce Greenwood). Dr. Green isn’t Michael’s regular shrink but he’s been asked to speak to the boy to try and find out where his regular doctor has disappeared to. In the two hours that follow, Dolan and Greenwood banter back and forth, mostly in circles, and Michael slowly shares personal details about his past. Apparently Greenwood can’t just read the file because he left his glasses at home…yeah.
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VIFF 2014 Review: Que Caramba es la Vida

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QueCaramba

When you think of Mariachi, the first that comes to mind is likely not a woman but in Mexico City’s Plaza Garibaldi, female Mariachi are a presence even though they’re still a minority. In her latest feature Que Caramba es la Vida, German filmmaker Doris Dörrie travels to Plaza Garibaldi and gets to know a few of the women who make a living belting out traditional Mexican music in a cultural art form that is still dominated by men.

Dörrie introduces us to a few of the women who eek out a living by singing soulful tunes. María del Carmen is the best of the bunch, a single mother who spends her nights singing in the square in order to support her mother and her young daughter. Del Carmen seems an unstoppable force as she applies her make-up and dons her uniform for the evening but Dörrie slowly chips away at the calm and collected exterior and as the documentary progresses, del Carmen and the other women begin to talk candidly about the struggles of a career that is dominated by men and the harassment and hardship they face on a nightly basis.
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Friday One Sheet: Ultra-Wide Interstellar

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A new idea for key art? Two new quad-style posters for Christopher Nolan’s upcoming Interstellar (the other one is here) are significantly wider than normal. It implies a ‘big screen’ experience that syncs nicely with the upcoming advanced Imax/70mm release of the film.

The white suited explorers against a bleached snowy mountains is compelling, if not exactly original. It’s an interesting choice to market a space exploration adventure, the only implication of space being the graphics on the title in the centre of the poster.

Occultober – Day 3 – The Wicker Man (1973)

The Wickerman (1973)
Not the American one with the bees, but rather the original British version with the apples.

When an uptight, very catholic, police sergeant (Edward Woodward) investigates the mysterious disappearance of a little girl on the isolated Scottish island of Summerisle, he quickly comes to suspect that she could possibly be sacrificed by the local pagans to help next years harvest.

Part musical, part pagan-wiki, part philosophical treatise on belief and morality, it remains, along with Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist as one of the truly iconic films of the genre. From a screenplay by Anthony Shaffer (Frenzy, Sleuth) it is barely a horror film by conventional standards. It is a bizarrely paced folksy crime procedural prone to bouts of ecclesiastical chagrin. But the ending is haunting enough to make up any lost ground. Likely the tour de force finale lead to The Wicker Man being branded “The Citizen Kane of horror films” by Cinefantastique Magazine; after its original theatrical release (the B-Side to Nic Roeg’s Don’t Look Now) was kind of ignored, the magazine devoted an entire issue to it.
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