What on earth is going on this summer? It seems to be start-and-stop with the big summer releases. Just when you think we’re back in the swing of things, we have another off month. It could also just be the fact that this year’s crop of summer movies has done little to impress us – I’m certainly far behind on my viewing and that’s equally due to lack of time as it is to general disinterest.
All I have to say is… thank the movie gods for streaming.
If your film was ever in need of the wise, tough as nails, good ol’ boy, you really couldn’t do much better than Sam Shepard. I know it’s a few days gone by at this point, but with the site problems we couldn’t get to it in a timely manner. Still, we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge this staple of American Cinema of the past half-century. And he will be missed after succumbing to the black veil resulting from complications of ALS.
Possibly best known by the older general audiences as Gen. Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier in The Right Stuff, he then was solidified as a solid star that became a household name. You could argue that he was typecast, but that isn’t always a bad thing in Hollywood. Cigar smoking military mastermind? Check. Seasoned cattle hand? Check. Sexy, small town widower? Check. Renegade from the southern law? Check. Straight up family man patriarch? Check. He played these roles, all of them, with aplomb.
Accomplishments include an Oscar nomination and The Pulitzer in 1979 for his abilities as a playwrite. He was romantically involved with Jessica Lange for a number of years and most recently was one of the stars of the much lauded, Netflix original “Bloodline”.
Shepard made his screen acting debut in Bob Dylan’s movie Renaldo and Clara. His film acting credits also include Steel Magnolias, playing the husband of the beauty shop owner; Terence Malick’s Days of Heaven, for which his movie career took off; Resurrection; Frances; Country; Fool for Love; Crimes of the Heart; Baby Boom; Bright Angel; Defenseless; Hamlet; The Notebook; Black Hawk Down; Don’t Come Knocking; The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford; Brothers; Safe House; Mud; August: Osage County; Cold in July; Midnight Special; Ithaca; In Dubious Battle; and You Were Never Here.
He wrote the screenplays for Michelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point; Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas, which won the Palme d’Or at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival; and Wenders’ Don’t Come Knocking. He also directed for film, including 1988’s Far North and 1992’s Silent Tongue.
Shepard also played drums in a band he formed called “The Holy Modal Rounders,” who were featured in Easy Rider, and he accompanied Bob Dylan on the Rolling Thunder Revue tour.
Director: Chan-wook Park
Screenplay by: Seo-kyeong Jeong, Chan-wook Park
Based on a Novel by: Sarah Waters
Starring: Tae-ri Kim, Min-hee Kim, Jung-woo Ha, Jin-woong Jo, Jin-woong Jo
Country: South Korea
Running Time: 146 min (also available in an extended version)
BBFC Certificate: 18
Chan-wook Park is a director who can do no wrong in my eyes. I’ve loved all of his films, even his divisive English language debut Stoker (although I haven’t seen his earlier pre-Vengeance Trilogy films or I’m a Cyborg). So, like many world cinema fans, I was excited to see what The Handmaiden, his return to South Korea, had in store, and I wasn’t disappointed.
The Handmaiden is based on the novel ‘Fingersmith’, by Welsh writer Sarah Waters, but with a change of setting from Victorian era Britain to Korea under Japanese colonial rule. Sookee (Tae-ri Kim) is hired as the new handmaiden to a Japanese heiress, Lady Hideko (Min-hee Kim), who lives with her ageing uncle Kouzuki (Jin-woong Jo), a cruel man who wants his hands on his niece’s fortune. Sookee however, has actually been hired by a swindler, posing as Count Fujiwara (Jung-woo Ha), who plans to have the handmaiden help him woo Hideko so he can marry her, then declare her insane and keep her money for himself. Sookee’s part in the plan becomes complicated however, when she falls in love and forms a sexual relationship with Hideko. The plot thickens further as the film goes on, but I wouldn’t want to spoil anything.
Like Stoker, The Handmaiden is a sexually charged, big, brash erotic thriller that may not necessarily be subtle or original, but enthrals nonetheless. As is to be expected from Chan-wook Park, the film is meticulously well made, and this is why it works so successfully, despite potentially trashy source material (no offence to the original novel, but I’ve seen plenty of these twist-laden, sex-filled thrillers before). The film looks ravishing, shot artfully and filled with lavish, yet imposing production design that creates the darkly beautiful prison Hideko is trapped in (her uncle’s house, that she is rarely allowed to leave).
Director: Fritz Lang
Screenplay: Fritz Lang, Thea von Harbou
Starring: Lil Dagover, Walter Janssen, Bernhard Goetzke, Max Adalbert
Running Time: 98 min
BBFC Certificate: PG
I‘ve been slowly working my way through Fritz Lang’s filmography and I’ve yet to be disappointed by his work. He crafted some of cinema’s most thrilling, inventive and forward thinking films during his 41 years behind the camera in both Germany and the US (where he moved in the mid-30s due to his anti-Nazi beliefs). So when Eureka announced they were releasing one of the director’s early successes, Der müde Tod (translated as The Weary Death, but otherwise known as Destiny), as part of their Masters of Cinema collection, I was keen to see how it stood up against his later, more famous films.
Der müde Tod sees Death (Bernhard Goetzke) come to make his home in a small German town. As well as building a great wall with no windows or doors around his property by the graveyard, he seems to follow a young couple (Lil Dagover and Walter Janssen) who are engaged to be married. As you might suspect, he’s there to collect a soul and the young man soon disappears. The woman, distraught, seeks out Death and pleads with him to spare her fiancée. Weary of his tough job, the shadowy figure offers the woman a deal. If she can prevent the deaths of just one of three nearly spent lives he presents to her (all part of tragic romances), she can have her wish.
In dealing with three separate stories, on top of the main framing narrative, Der müde Tod works like D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance, made a few years prior, telling a few similarly themed tales to make a universal message (this time about fate). Here they’re not intercut though, the ‘extra’ stories merely play out back to back in the middle of the film.
As Mamo gets near the end of its first season, we take in the formal mastery of DUNKIRK while wondering aloud: just white people? Really? And at least one of the Matts is a pretty hefty fan of GAME OF THRONES but greets this CONFEDERATE news with a hefty: really, white people? Really?
With Kurt attacking The Fantasia Film Festival head-on, we must keep this one short before the next screening. That said, it might be argued that at this point, a Christopher Nolan film can be considered an event picture. And Dunkirk is most certainly an event – both the historical context and the theatrical screening. So it would be doing the film a disservice not to give it the attention it deserves with a nearly hour long conversation. So we discuss the technical and emotional aspects of everything Nolan excels at with this picture; which some might consider his masterpiece. You’ll get no arguments from us. So we talk Dunkirk and then move on to a couple of Fantasia titles that Kurt has screened thus far. We apologize for the slight audio falters at the beginning, but it is cleaned up after about ten minutes. We’ll be back next week for another shorter show in which we’ll tackle Atomic Blonde and Lady Macbeth.
As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!
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After last weeks tirade against the lazy photoshopping of guns into movie posters, let us show some love for the rare hand-painted poster, be it digital or analog. Consider this gorgeous poster for Ted Geoghegan’s Mohawk which recently premiered at the Fantasia International Film Festival. First off, using the reflection of the Mohawk warrior in the water to give the the poster an ‘upside-down’ feel, is supremely inviting to take a closer look. Second, the notes of red and white stand out against the dark shades of black that comprise much of the design. Third, the closer-to-the-middle credit block placement leaves space to have the forest and the moon in the frame, the lighting elements for the entire tableau. But also and indicator that this will be a film ‘lost in the wilderness’ both figuratively and literally. You simply do not see posters like this one very often, and it is a delight to seem them this well done when they come along.
The last few weeks have been a little slow in the TV department, almost as if Peak TV also takes a summer break, but thanks to Netlix for a healthy new obsession.
Beautiful and emotional and quiet. The latest film/fairy-tale from Guillermo del Toro, features a deaf Sally Hawkins tentatively courting a merman (Doug Jones) a Cold War 1960’s government laboratory where she works as a janitor. Michael Shannon and Michael Stuhlbarg are the G-Men, and Octavia Spencer Richard Jenkins, in full beard, are the nice folks. But really, the star as always is the visuals and the tone that the director is aiming for. Remember all those parts where Hellboy hangs out with Abe? This appears to be the feature length, even more romanticized version, and it looks wonderful.
The Lure, Disney’s live action remake of The Little Mermaid, Stephen Chow’s The Mermaid, Jason Mamoa’s Aquaman in Justice League, and now The Shape of Water. Mer-people are clearly in vogue at the moment. And while on that subject, so is sign language. The War For The Planet Of The Apes, and Baby Driver also made good use of sign as quiet character building.
At one point the big film adaptation of Jo Nesbo’s serial killer novel, The Snowman, was to be directed by Martin Scorsese. Eventually the job went to Thomas Alfredson, a Swedish director who is no stranger to murder set stories in the ice and snow, as he stormed onto the global stage in 2008 with coming-of-age vampire drama Let The Right One In. This trailer mixes almost repetitive exposition with some really intense images, and a cool soundtrack. It’s hard to get a read on whether the story (one of many featuring the authors lead detective, Harry Hole) will be more Zodiac or Seven, but all things point to the latter. Rebecca Ferguson, Michael Fassbender, Val Kilmer, Chloë Sevigny, J.K. Simmons, and Charlotte Gainsbourg ensure the film will have no shortage of acting talent, combine that with a Hossein Amini (Drive, The Wings of the Dove and Alfredson’s exceptional directorial chops, and this has prestige written all over the gruesome subject matter.