Blu-Ray Review: Le Trou

Director: Jacques Becker
Screenplay: Jacques Becker, José Giovanni, Jean Aurel
Based on a Novel by: José Giovanni
Starring: André Bervil, Jean Keraudy, Michel Constantin, Raymond Meunier, Marc Michel
Country: France, Italy
Running Time: 132 min
Year: 1960
BBFC Certificate: 12


Jacques Becker is a director whose name seems to have passed me by, until I received a press release about the forthcoming re-release of a handful of his films. I almost forwarded the press release straight on to the rest of the site’s writers, but I had a quick look on IMDb and realised how well received his work has been, particularly the four Studiocanal are putting out on Blu-Ray and DVD – Edward and Caroline, Casque D’Or, Touchez Pas Au Grisbi and Le Trou. So I picked one to review that sounded most my cup of tea, (Le Trou – a.k.a. The Night Watch) and let some of my associates handle the rest.

Le Trou is based on the true account of a prison break from La Santé Prison in France in 1947 and adapted from a novel (called ‘The Break’) about the incident written by an inmate of the prison, José Giovanni. Claude Gaspard (Marc Michel) is transferred to a new cell in the prison, joining four other men, Jo Cassine (Michel Constantin), Roland Darban (Jean Keraudy), Manu Borelli (Philippe Leroy), Vossellin/Monseigneur (Raymond Meunier). They seem a little hesitant about Gaspard’s appearance at first, but once they warm to him, they decide to tell him about their intended jail break and get him involved in it. From then on, we observe the work done by the inmates to dig their way out of the prison, whilst trying to keep it a secret from the guards. There are also some worries about how trustworthy Gaspard is, as some unexpected twists arrive later on.

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Cinecast Episode 494 – Broken Soundtrack

Art should push buttons. Bigelow does just that with her latest, criminally underseen, “masterpiece” (copyright Kurt Halfyard of RowThree.com), Detroit starring John Boyega, Will Poulter and Anthony Mackie et. al. It’s an intense couple of hours that is frustrating in the best possible way – kind of like this show. On The Watch List this week we talk about Jimmy Iovine’s involvement with DeathRow Records in “The Defiant Ones” as well as the crime thriller, drama, “Ozark”, which is “the best thing Jason Bateman has ever done” (copyright Andrew James of RowThree.com). For a tight show, we pack in a lot of conversation – including an apology to site visitors and listeners.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

We’re now available on Google Play!

 

 
 

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Friday One Sheet: Logan Lucky And White Boxes

Usually reserved for thrillers, the ‘white border’ dividing photos design (See Heist, Triple Nine, Homefront, Red) a classic poster cliche. But as with many things Soderbergh, repurposing that cliche with a bit more care. For instance the borders here in some cases split a single image, rather than just lazily putting in on-set stills or head-shots of the movie stars (a major pet peeve of mine when it comes to poster design).

The black and white mix with sunset colours also really works, and is a stand out in a year of pink posters.

Further points for the side-mountain credit block to accomodate the race-car and drifting cash under the title.

Cinecast Episode 493- A Beer Commercial

Missing week in the recording schedule can be tough for some podcasts to get over; especially when one of the hosts is out of the country. But not The Cinecast. We trek on, banging out the 80s German jams while we rap about Charlize Theron and Atomic Blonde. Kurt is done with The 2017 Fantasia Film Festival and comes to us with a full report on everything from 4K remastered classics to a $65 Ugandan action picture. Due to some French ISP issues and nosy annoyed neighbors, we had to cut this one a little bit short, but what is in here is golden. Get your notepads ready, this is Cinecast 493!

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

We’re now available on Google Play!

 

 
 

 

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Blu-Ray Review: The Saga of Anatahan

Director: Josef von Sternberg
Screenplay: Josef von Sternberg
Based on a Novel by: Younghill Kang, Michiro Maruyama
Starring: Akemi Negishi, Tadashi Suganuma, Kisaburo Sawamura, Shôji Nakayama
Country: Japan
Running Time: 92 min
Year: 1953
BBFC Certificate: 15


The Saga of Anatahan is a bit of a curiosity. It was written and directed by Josef von Sternberg, who was a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood in the 20s and 30s, particularly after the success of his German feature, The Blue Angel. The Saga of Anatahan was his penultimate film and saw the well-travelled director head to Japan to produce a film based on a true story that happened in the country after WWII.

It tells of a group of Japanese seamen who are shipwrecked on the remote island of Anatahan, during the war. There they come across what they assume are man and wife, Kusakabe (Tadashi Suganuma) and Keiko (Akemi Negishi). Being the only woman on the island, the men soon lust after her and over the course of the seven years the group live on the island, they fight and eventually kill for her affections. During this time, they also receive messages stating that the war is over, the Japanese have lost and an American ship will come to pick them up. The proud seamen refuse to believe this though, dismissing it as enemy propaganda, and decide to stay put.

The story isn’t so unusual then as other accounts have been made of people trapped on desert islands and the like. What makes this a curiosity is partly why Sternberg decided to make this film in Japan in the first place (it’s shot on a studio, so he could have done it in his home of California), but more so in the fact that he decided to have all the cast speak their native Japanese, without subtitles. To keep the film from getting confusing, Sternberg narrates the film himself, making for a very strange and unique experience.

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Blu-Ray Review: A Brighter Summer Day – Criterion Collection

Director: Edward Yang
Screenplay: Hung Hung, Mingtang Lai, Alex Yang, Edward Yang
Starring: Chen Chang, Lisa Yang, Kuo-Chu Chang
Country: Taiwan
Running Time: 237 min
Year: 1991
BBFC Certificate: 15


It seems like this week was a week of epics for me. After enjoying three hours of Italian peasants in The Tree of Wooden Clogs, I felt I was primed for four hours of Taiwanese drama in Edward Yang’s A Brighter Summer Day, which is finally being released here in the UK, by the Criterion Collection. The director’s work, like most of the films of the New Taiwanese Cinema movement, is woefully unavailable on DVD and Blu-Ray in the UK, so this release is hugely welcome. Due to this lack of access, I’ve yet to see an Edward Yang film, despite hearing great things, so I got a comfy chair and settled down to watch possibly the longest film I’ve ever seen (I actually watched it in two chunks, but both on the same day at least!)

A Brighter Summer Day is very loosely based on a real life incident in Taiwan in the early 1960s, when a young teenager (named Si’r in the film and played by Chen Chang) murdered a girl who reportedly turned down his advances (named Ming and played by Lisa Yang). Edward Yang isn’t concerned with recreating this incident too accurately though, he instead uses it as the inspiration for a complex tale of youth gangs, popular in the country due to the political uncertainty of the time and the infiltration of American pop culture which celebrated teenage rebellion.

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Blu-Ray Review: The Tree of Wooden Clogs

Director: Ermanno Olmi
Screenplay: Ermanno Olmi
Starring: Luigi Ornaghi, Francesca Moriggi, Omar Brignoli
Country: Italy
Running Time: 187 min
Year: 1978
BBFC Certificate: 12


The Tree of Wooden Clogs, a film often described as plotless, running a little over three hours and following the lives of peasants in Italy during the end of the 19th Century, doesn’t sound particularly appealing on the surface. I must admit I had second thoughts about requesting a screener due to this, but strong reviews talked me into it and I’m glad they did, as The Tree of Wooden Clogs proved to be a wonderful film that I enjoyed watching far more than I expected.

The film is set in 1898 and follows the lives of five peasant families living together in one farmstead in the Bergamo region of northern Italy. They work hard tending the land for their landlord who owns most of what they have. Using non-actors from the region, writer/director Ermanno Olmi creates a detailed and naturalistic observation of the lives of these people. I wouldn’t call the film entirely plotless though as some have suggested. In observing life on the farmstead, we are presented with several family dramas that play out during the course of the film. One important thread which is introduced in the film’s opening and plays a part in the climactic scenes, sees the young son of one family accepted into school due to a perceived high level of intelligence. Going to school was rare for peasant families in these days and the boy’s parents don’t seem keen on the idea due to the expense and what the neighbours would think. However, their local priest recommends it, so they send him 6km every weekday to the nearest school house. This has consequences further down the line that I won’t spoil here.

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After the Credits Episode 214: August Preview

💆👉✌️✌️

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.

But we truck on and this month, Dale (Letterboxd) and I (Letterboxd) trudge through August’s offerings and dig up one, maybe two, titles which look at least passingly worthy of our attention.

All I have to say is… thank the movie gods for streaming.

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Sam Shepard: 1943-2017

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.

 
 

Blu-Ray Review: The Handmaiden

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)
Year: 2016
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).

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