Friday One Sheet: Japanese Blood Simple

Hat-tip to The Film Stage‘s Instagram feed for pointing out this Japanese poster for The Coen’s 1984 debut film, Blood Simple. It feels that the foggy ‘scene; pictured might have been the inspiration of a scene from P.T. Anderson’s The Master, as well as the opening shot of Green Room. And the ‘dwarfed’ police car in an indistinct landscape may have also inspired the opening shot of Fargo. The bold orange stencil type kind of chews up the negative space here with the caption “The Thriller” is probably an unintentional cultural flourish, but it kind of works. If you would like to see a more minimalist take on this design, a DeviantArt user went for the same image but maximized the minimalism, as it were. I must admit that I like the composition of the Japanese poster a wee bit more though, with the prowler off-centre.

Review: The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography


 

“Almost all human endeavour is ephemeral, all that is left in the end is love and friendship.” So said Errol Morris at the screening of his latest movie, The B-Side, in which he spends a little over an hour on-screen with his friend and family portrait photographer Elsa Dorfman.

Now 78 and in retirement, she is known primarily for working with a rare, large-format Polaroid instant camera, 20″ x 24″, of which there are only six in existence, one of them owned by her for decades. And while she has photographed many famous people, from Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, and Faye Dunaway to her close friend, beat poet and conscientious objector Allan Ginsberg (who features largely here in life and death), it is her career as an everyday portrait photographer that Morris is most keen on exploring here.

A self-proclaimed nice little Jewish girl from Massachusetts, Dorfman has a sunny outlook and a warm personality that makes the short time we get to spend with her leafing through her flat-filing cabinets of prints over the decades, an absolute pleasure. Using a multi-camera set-up (no Interrotron here), this is Morris at his most loose and relaxed, but his subject and approach is in no way lacking in rigour and revelation.

The director has a long history of thinking about the nature of photography, from his 25,000 word essay on two photos from a canon-ball strewn road taken during the nineteenth century Crimean War, to his documentary feature on the famous torture photos taken by military personnel at the famous Abu Graib Prison, Standard Operating Procedure. When Dorfman scoffs at the ‘camera capturing the soul’ in her work, there is a kindred spirit at play.

Photography “is not real at all,” she says. It is just a moment that happened, where the complex development process captured and displayed it moments later. Due to the expensive nature of large Polaroid film, when she does her portraits she takes two pictures of the family and lets them choose the one they want.

Since there are no negatives, she cannot keep that one, but instead is left with the ‘b-side,’ the one the family left behind. In her way, she feels that the b-side, the so-called ‘mistake,’ is the better one, and can be quite different form the other photo, capturing a totally different ‘narrative’ even though they were taken moments apart. For a photographer and artist to be left with only the left-overs is an interesting concept in itself.

The B-Side is Elsa, in her own charming accent, telling us who she is and where she came from, while talking about her family and how she feels about her work and career. It does so in her studio, occasionally with one of Morris’ cameras peaking at her eyes from inside the cabinet as she pulls out another over-sized print. The photographs unearthed from these drawers do as much of the talking as Dorfman does, in the way photographs do.

At 79, Dorfman is (more or less) retired. For that matter, the entire Polaroid corporation, which stopped making the film she uses in 2008, is kind of retired too. In considering what to do with her extensive archive, she reflects, with no false modesty, that portrait photography becomes truly relevant when the subjects pass on. Not in a sad way, but rather a reminder of time, memory and all of the love and friendship accumulated over a lifetime.

Cinecast Episode 488 – Hillbilly Protocol

Wonderful photography is all over the place; particularly in this episode. It’s a running theme through almost everything we discuss in today’s show. Elsa Dorfman uses “shed-size” Polaroids to inspire the beat poets of the day and contemporary family portraits alike in Errol Morris’ new documentary, The B-Side. Noah Hawley has stepped up his game big time in season 2 of “Fargo” – not only in cinematography but also pretty much every other aspect of a television season. The Watch List sees gimmicky gore fests, a silent three-hour progenitor for the James Bond films, underappreciated Coen Brothers fare, a new Netflix series about women’s wrestling and finally a .44 Magnum, the most powerful hand gun in the world and could blow your head clean off!

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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Blu-Ray Review: The Sinbad Trilogy

Being a big Star Wars fan from a fairly young age, I used to think of that trilogy as being what turned me into the obsessive lover of film I am today. However, a few years ago when I watched Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan I realised there was a set of films I fell in love with before I discovered George Lucas’ world of lightsabers and space battles, and those were the fantasy films featuring the work of the great stop-motion legend Ray Harryhausen. Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans and the Sinbad trilogy were mind-blowing to me as a young pre-teen and I made sure I watched all of them whenever they showed up on TV, which was quite often back in the late 80s and early 90s. Nostalgia can be a cruel beast though, so although I was thrilled to hear that the amazing team at Indicator were set to release Harryhausen’s Sinbad Trilogy on dual-format Blu-Ray and DVD, I was slightly worried that the films wouldn’t live up to my high expectations. There was only one way to find out, so I marathon watched the three films over three nights on a borrowed projector to get the full big screen experience.

Here’s what I thought of each film:

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Blu-Ray Review: The Sorrow and the Pity

Director: Marcel Ophüls
Screenplay: André Harris, Marcel Ophüls
Starring: Georges Bidault, Matthäus Bleibinger, Charles Braun, Maurice Buckmaster, Emmanuel d’Astier de la Vigerie
Country: France, Switzerland, West Germany
Running Time: 249 min
Year: 1969
BBFC Certificate: E


Choosing to request a copy of the documentary The Sorrow and the Pity to review was a case of feeling I should watch the film rather than me wanting to watch it. The title for starters doesn’t suggest you’re in for an easy night in front of the TV. Then you’ve got the length. At a little over four hours, it’s a hefty slab of documentary and not easy to get through in one go (I watched it over 3 nights, but only because I was far too tired to concentrate the first night – 2 would have been fine and the film is split in 2 parts to accommodate this). Nonetheless, I’d heard it often called one of the greatest documentaries ever made so, being a fan of the genre, I felt I ought to have seen the film, so I semi-reluctantly asked for a copy.

What also didn’t help my low level of enthusiasm was that I thought the film was about the Holocaust, which doesn’t make for easy viewing and is a subject that has been well covered elsewhere (particularly in the even lengthier Shoah). However, I was misinformed (or rather hadn’t read into it properly). The film is about France during WWII, so the Holocaust does feature and much time is spent on the subject of the Nazi’s anti-semitism. The core subject matter however, is the examination of Germany’s occupation of France between 1940 and 1944. Once I realised this was the case (shortly before finally putting the film on), I became less reluctant to watch it. A lot of films and documentaries have covered WWII and various aspects of the war over the decades that followed. However, other than Casablanca and the TV series ‘Allo ‘Allo, which are hardly documentaries or even ‘based on true events’ for that matter, I’ve personally never seen the occupation covered in much detail on film.

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Friday One Sheet: Dunkirk

Many of the posters for Christopher Nolan’s war-rescue picture Dunkirk have been of the super-wide banner variety. Here is a classic vertical design (and nothing gives a vertical impression than a sailboat) that emphasizes the scope and chaos through depth of field rather than panorama. There are a lot of elements and things to see here, shadows of air planes, fishermen working frantically, soldiers drowning in the water, or floating on objects. The fire offers a few flashes of colour in an otherwise desaturated ‘grim seas’ palette. It is also noteworthy that the IMAX specialty releases of films tend to be a bit more adventurous with their poster designs, probably because they are not distributed as widely.

Trailer: Stronger

If Peter Berg’s Patriot’s Day wasn’t your thing, and you are yearning for a less ‘rah-rah-rah’ story about the Boston Marathon bombing, well, I am not entirely sure you will get that with David Gordon Green’s survivor story, Stronger. While it focuses less on ‘finding those responsible’ and more on ‘dealing with the trauma’ of these incidents, it is definitely swinging for the fences in terms of Oscar-bait kind of performances. Nothing wrong with that when you have Jake Gyllenhaal doing the heavy lifting. Gyllenhaal has proven over the past decade that he one of the best American actors working today, whether it be in a weird arthouse thriller like Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy or Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler, or in mainstream Hollywood adult movies such as Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoner, or Jean-Marc Vallée’s Demolition.

Jeff, a 27-year-old, working-class Boston man who was at the marathon to try and win back his ex-girlfriend Erin. While waiting for her at the finish line the blast occurs, and he loses both his legs. After regaining consciousness in the hospital, his battle has just begun as he tackles months of physical and emotional rehabilitation with the unwavering support of Erin and his family.

Trailer: American Assassin

The Keaton resurgence keep coming and lately he’s been saying nerts to the aging process and getting a little more badass. I’ll probably be skipping the Spider-Man rebootmake but ironic that he plays a super villain with wings after the concept of his hit Birdman. But I digress.

Keaton is back as an aging super combat hero now under the employ of the government(?) to train new recruits into covert agents/assassins. Basically this is just an excuse to make another Bourne/John Wick clone but ultimately I have no problem with that as long as it looks good and the cast is interesting – which it is here. I can’t say I know much about Dylan O’Brien as I never watched The Maze Runner series, but he does look interesting here. Throw in Keaton and Kitsch and whole slew of reasonably fresh faces along with a boatload of Tom Clancy-esque action and you’ve got my attention; and money.

Have a look at the trailer below and tell us what you think. American Assassin opens in the U.S. along with back to school daze. See you there. At the theater that is, not school. This is a new kind of school.

Cinecast Episode 487 – A Fistful of Film (Best of 2017 So Far…)

Kinda weird that with various movies in circulation starring Naomi Watts and Rachel Wiesz and John Lithgow… not to mention a Pixar film, that Andrew and Kurt stayed away from el teatro this weekend and opted for some air conditioning and home screenings. Kurt binge watched the entire season one of Fargo and much prodding by Andrew; so there’s plenty of discussion to be had there – discussion of biblical proportions actually. Andrew went back to early Leone and Michael Bay and some Sundancey schlock. But it’s the end of June so it’s time to look back and try to find any evolving trends on the year as well as count down our top five films of the year so far. This one is a bumpier ride, but hang on to the reins and you’re come out of it just fine.

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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Blu-Ray Review: Daughters of the Dust

Director: Julie Dash
Screenplay: Julie Dash
Starring: Cora Lee Day, Alva Rogers, Barbarao, Adisa Anderson, Trula Hoosier
Country: UK, USA
Running Time: 112 min
Year: 1991
BBFC Certificate: PG


I‘d heard the title Daughters of the Dust crop up a couple of times not long before the BFI announced its re-release on dual format Blu-Ray and DVD in the UK. Everybody’s favourite source of film lists, Taste of Cinema, included it on their ’10 Totally Awesome 1990s Movies You May Have Missed’ lineup in May, which caught my attention. Plus I’d heard mention of it when Beyonce’s acclaimed Lemonade film/album came out last year. So, although descriptions of the film didn’t make it sound like my typical cup-of-tea, I was eager to give the film a look and what better way than in a shiny new Blu-Ray edition, spruced up by the BFI.

There’s not much of a story to describe as I typically like to do in my second paragraph. Some opening text explains how in South Carolina’s Sea Islands, certain communities of former west-African slaves lived alone, away from the rest of American society and adopted many of their ancestors’ Yoruba traditions. The film is set in 1902 and sees members of the Gullah community on the islands struggle to maintain their cultural heritage and folklore while preparing for a migration to the mainland, even further from their roots.

This struggle takes place with little on screen incidence. A couple of tragedies and scandals have struck the community, but these have happened in the past and are referred to, but never shown. We do however see mystical visions of the future as a child possibly born from her mother’s rape narrates and fleetingly visits the film’s scenes. A couple of former islanders and their friend who come to visit from the mainland also offer some unrest to proceedings and remind the community and the audience how the two worlds differ.

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