Friday 30 November 2012

BLANK CITY - Review By Greg Klymkiw - This joyous documentary celebration of underground cinema in New York during the 70s is an ideal gift to cinema-lovers who celebrate the birth of Baby Jesus H. Christ - KLYMKIW CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEA 2012 #8

Jim Jarmusch on NYC's No Wave Cinema of the 1970s:

The inspirational thing was people doing it
because they felt it.

In this continuing series devoted to reviewing motion pictures ideal for this season of celebration and gift giving, here is KLYMKIW CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEA 2012 #8: The Kino-Lorber Blu-Ray of BLANK CITY, a terrific documentary ode to the beginnings of New York Underground cinema during the punk and new wave period. A perfect gift for the celebration of Baby Jesus H. Christ.


Blank City (2010) **** dir. Celine Danhier Starring: Amos Poe, John Lurie, Steve Buscemi, James Nares, Jim Jarmusch, John Waters, Sara Driver, Lizzie Borden, Susan Seidelman, Ann Magnuson, Richard Kern, Nick Zedd, Beth B. Scott B., Debbie Harry, Lydia Lunch, The Ramones, The Talking Heads, Wayne County

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Blank City is such an immersive, joyous and always thrilling movie experience that a little part of me hopes that audiences not as obsessed with movies, queer culture and punk as I am will get as much pleasure out of it as I did. I think they will, but probably in different ways. The converted will feel like they've died and gone to Heaven while others will either wish their most formative years as young people had been during the late 60s, 70s and a smidgen of the early 80s or, at the least, they'll come away with a new appreciation for the beginnings of truly DIY cinema and the sheer joy from living as art and art as living.

Director Celine Dahnier and Producer/Editor Vanessa Roworth weave a thoroughly entertaining narrative with a tight three-act structure (beginnings, heydays, end of days), truly inspiring, informative interviews and lots of great clips (with driving music that propels us with considerable force).

We hear and see a lot of Amos Poe - and so we should. Poe is, for many, the Godfather, the spirit, the soul of the entire movement of underground filmmaking in New York - coined by the great film critic Jim Hoberman as "No Wave". Poe describes his early beginnings as a photographer and tells a great story about visiting relatives in Czechoslovakia and how he eventually journeyed deep into "Dracula Country" within the Carpathian Mountains to surreptitiously "steal the souls" of superstitious rural country-folk with a long lens.

Returning to New York after Russian tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia to assert their Totalitarian power, Poe, like so many young people in America, especially artists, was ultimately gobsmacked by the sheer devastation within his country. The assassinations of JFK, RFK, Martin Luther King, the seemingly endless Vietnam War, the lies and corruption of government, the civil unrest, wholesale murder and assaults upon Americans, on American soil by Americans.

In Canada, we felt much of the same strife in other ways - firstly as a trickle-up effect from our neighbours south of the 49th parallel, but secondly, the more insidiously and subtly creepy manner in which the Canadian Government preyed on its most vulnerable, its intelligentsia, its First Nation Peoples, its Queers, its artists and anyone not subscribing to the Status Quo.

Artists Ann Magnuson and James Nares respectively note how punk rock was an ideal response to the remnants of post-war Leave It To Beaver blandness that permeated America, clutching on to control for dear life and emitting death gasps that seemed to signal something all together new waiting in the wings. What this movement became was something that the young artists of New York embraced with a fervour (a "fuck you" movement/scene that, in its own way was happening in Canada at the same time in direct conflict with reigning Protestantism in Toronto and backwards, insular midwestern homogeneity in Winnipeg.)

Amos Poe spent endless nights hanging in bars where friends like Patti Smith, The Talking Heads, The Ramones, Wayne County, Debbie Harry and Television played (initially) in obscurity, save for the "scene" in New York. Poe had long since abandoned his first loves, still cameras and the 8mm home movie camera and hung in these joints shooting the bands on silent black and white 16mm and record their music (not synched, of course) on cassette tape.

Out of this came Poe's highly influential Blank Generation. Once he had all the footage, he needed to edit it. He rented an editing room from the Maysles Brothers (Gimme Shelter) for $40, but was only allowed one straight 24-hour period to cut the film. Poe fuelled himself with speed, cut for 24-hours, then premiered the film the next night at the famed punk bar CBGBs.

From here, underground filmmaking in New York exploded and this was TRULY underground. It had nothing to do with the equally cool, but snobby artistes amongst the experimental film crowd, this was a wave of cinema created out of the punk movement and sought to capture the energy of the "scene", but to also tell stories and, of course, with virtually no money.

They wrote the rules and broke the rules.

The city was bankrupt, and the lower East Side of New York looked like a blasted-out war zone. Whole buildings stood empty and while most "sane" people left NYC, the "freaks" stayed and even more descended upon it.

People wanted to make movies. They had no money, but this mattered not. They made them anyway. James Nares describes how artists could, for virtually nothing, secure astounding digs that served as studios: "We lived like itinerant kings in these broken down palaces." This truly became the antithesis to Hollywood and the mainstream. In fact, there was almost the sense that the Lower East Side WAS a movie studio, but with absolutely nobody in charge.

Blank City blasts through these glorious days and it's so much fun that you as an audience member hope, unrealistically, for it not to end. After all, the movie is a Who's Who of great filmmaking talent. Steve Buscemi seems to be in almost every movie, John Lurie not only makes music, but makes movies. Scott and Beth B, Lizzie Borden, Sara Driver, Susan Seidelman, Jim Jarmusch, John Waters, Nick Zedd and Richard Kern are but a few of those who flourished here (and are expertly interviewed by the documentary's filmmakers).

And, an end to all good things must come. Blank City reveals how the neighbourhood becomes gentrified and the lives led in a particular place and time are altered forever - as are the films. Some stay, others move on. What doesn't change is that for a glorious time, a scene of talented young people raged against the machine and made movies that captured a way of life and (both the filmmakers and their films) happily live on to influence and inform new generations.

If anything, Blank City is proof positive that Waves in filmmaking (or any great art) cannot be manufactured. They must come from the lifestyle, the gut, the artistry and invention of young passionate artists who find each other, support each other, make movies WITH each other, FOR each other and in so doing create a unique and indelible stamp upon the greatest magic of all.

The magic of movies.

Blank City makes an especially great gift for filmmakers, film lovers and/or old punks. Anyone who makes movies, cares about movies and can't live without movies must see and own this film. More importantly, after seeing it, do whatever you have to do to see the movie that started it all, Poe's Blank Generation and after you see that, dig up as many of the rest as you can. They make for great viewing. Blank City on Blu-Ray, looks and sounds GREAT. The disc is also chock-full of some superb supplementals. It's via Kino-Lorber.

Thursday 29 November 2012

Les visiteurs du soir - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Criterion Collection Blu-Ray of Classic Marcel Carné Masterpiece about love amongst the minions of the Devil is a perfect gift to honour and celebrate the birth of Baby of Jesus H. Christ - KLYMKIW CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEA 2012 #7

Can someone explain to me

why movies today can't have great posters like this.

In this continuing series devoted to reviewing motion pictures ideal for this season of celebration and gift giving, here is KLYMKIW CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEA 2012 #7: The Criterion Collection Blu-Ray of the Marcel Carné Masterpiece "Les visiteurs du soir" about love amongst the minions of the Devil and those they must convert to Satan worship and/or spread ill-will amongst. A perfect gift for the celebration of Baby Jesus H. Christ.


Les visiteurs du soir (1942) *****
dir. Marcel Carné
Starring: Arletty, Alain Cuny, Marie Déa, Fernand Ledoux, Marcel Herrand, Jules Berry

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Those who've come back to us from Near Death Experiences (NDE), often describe one salient common detail, which is, being enveloped by the sensation of overwhelming love. It's as if the true power of the universe, of existence, of spirit and science can be called God, but is, whatever it is, that which is borne from rapture - a love that is as pure and intense as life itself.

The power of love is, for me, what ultimately rests at the core of Marcel Carné's masterpiece Les visiteurs du soir, a deliriously enchanting medieval fairytale. With sumptuous production design, a perfect cast, and a screenplay that always tantalizes and surprises, Carné pulled off a film that was France's hugest box office hit during the 40s, continued to delight post-war audiences abroad and miraculously withstood the ravages of time and continued to be of universal importance in terms of both its entertainment value and its submerged, though vital, political and social subtext.

Set against the lavish backdrop of French nobleman Baron Hugues's (Fernand Ledoux) castle, preparations are underway to marry off his beautiful daughter Anne (Marie Déa) to the vulgar, loutish Baron Renaud (Marcel Herrand). One suspects Hugues would normally see through the wrong-headedness of this arranged marriage, but alas, he wanders about in a cloud of despair having been widowed from the woman he loved so dearly and faithfully.

Under these dire circumstances, happiness for the beleaguered Anne is not to be.

In fact, the potential for even more dire consequences multiplies exponentially with the arrival of two new visitors to the castle, a pair of wandering minstrels. Gilles (Alain Cluny) is a mouth-wateringly gorgeous young man with a sad face and sadder eyes that betray much pain and heartache. A fey, young fellow with a hard, icy beauty accompanies him. If it were not for the male garb, we might suspect that he is a she. And so it is, that she, is not a he, but is indeed, a she. Adorned in drag, this is the former lover of Gilles, Dominique (the gorgeous, radiant French star Arletty). Though they travel together, their love has faded. As minstrels, they make beautiful music together, but no similar beauty exists between them as a pair.

They enter the castle, ostensibly to perform at the various wedding festivities. Sure enough, they indeed perform and when they do, they do so rapturously. Gilles and Dominique have other aims. They've sold their souls to the Devil and wander the Earth to surreptitiously spread ill will. Seeing as this household is already burdened with the despair of a husband missing his late wife and the despair of his daughter being forced to marry an odious fop, one wonders how much more wretched gloom these Satanic emissaries will imbue the proceedings with.

Things, however, take a few unimagined turns when the power of true love threatens to rear its sweet head, but this is no typical fairy tale - there are no guarantees that love will conquer evil. A truly formidable force joins the proceedings when it seems that his minions might be blowing it - a crazed madman who appears to embody all in the world that is truly abominable.

He is none other than The Devil himself.

Nothing in this tale will come easily, if it comes at all. This is, after all, a film by the estimable Marcel Carné and produced in the midst of the Nazi Occupation of France. There are many laughs, much that is delightful and plenty of romance, but there is, amidst the surface enchantment, a roiling cauldron of darkness.

The elegance, intelligence and sophistication of this great picture stand on their own, but frankly, it is impossible - with the hindsight of history - to avoid the fact that all in the film's plot that is duplicitous, double-crossing and evil is rooted in the reality of a country living under the cloud of a turncoat collaborationist government, the Vichy, and its conquerors, the Nazis.

Even more powerful is the fact that the film was made before the Liberation and within that context; there might well have been little hope in France that the forces of right would quash all that was wrong.

At a critical point in the film's proceedings, it becomes clear that the central protagonist is Satan himself and as brilliantly, eye-roilingly and viciously portrayed by the great Jules Berry, the devil bears a mighty strong resemblance to Adolph Hitler.

Three years later, and in secret no less, Marcel Carné would go on to direct one of the great films under the Occupation of France, Les enfants du paradis and as tremendous as that film is, Les visiteurs du soir might well be his masterpiece.

See it! Les visiteurs du soir, The Envoys of the Devil, threaten to drag the world of the film down, but in so doing, you, the audience, will soar!

"Les visiteurs du soir" is a must-own Blu-Ray, or if you must, DVD and as such (and given the film's subject matter, prove to be an excellent gift for someone special this Christmas Season. The Criterion Disc is replete with lovely extra feature including an all-new digital restoration, an uncompressed monaural soundtrack (as always, MY favourite feature), a tremendous 2009 documentary on the making of the picture, "L’aventure des Visiteurs du soir” and new English subtitles with a fresh translation.

Wednesday 28 November 2012


Linda Blair in "CHAINED HEAT" discovers it's not best to shower alone in a prison for women. 

Here's your Greg Klymkiw Christmas Gift Suggestion #6 for 2012. The "Third Strike" Deluxe DVD Collection featuring Linda Blair, Sylvia Kristal and Sybil Danning is a must for all gentlemen. From VSC (Video Service Corp) this 3-movie delight that features CHAINED HEAT, RED HEAT and JUNGLE WARRIORS is aimed specifically at Gentlemen wishing to celebrate the birth of Jesus H. Christ with stylish sleaze of the highest order. Your MAN will love you forever if you bestow this fine set of neo-realist dramas upon him. Place it under the Tannenbaum and you'll feel like one of the Three Wise Men under the Star of Bethlehem as they lay their tributes before the feet of the virgin-birthed cherub.

The Late, Great Canadian Actor John Vernon surely deserved more accolades for his realistic portrait of a prison warden who forces female inmates to have sex with him in a hot tub while he videotapes their vile escapades to add to his insanely large collection of amateur porn.

Chained Heat (1983) *** dir. Paul Nicholas
Starring: Linda Blair, John Vernon, Sybil Danning, Stella Stevens, Tamara Dobson, Henry Silva, Louisa Moritz

Review By Greg Klymkiw

You like a decent chicks-in-prison picture? I thought so. Who doesn't. There's so much to like. An innocent woman or two lands behind bars and is unprepared for the horrors within. Two factions of female prisoners - each led by a tough babe, battle for inmate supremacy and pick on the fresh meat (and/or demand sexual favours from them). A corrupt warden (male or female), corrupt prison guards (male or female) and assorted corrupt prison personnel (male or female) all get a crack at exploiting inmates (usually as recipients/receptacles of unwanted sexual activity). Eventually, one of the innocent women has way more smarts than anyone else, learns to become tough as nails, bands together with likeminded ladies on both sides of the rivalry equation and - watch out!!!!! - Hell breaks loose in the form of a riot, major ass-kicking and eventual exposure of the corruption within the system. Dappled throughout is a smorgasbord of rape, torture and murder.

This is the general blueprint for most women in prison pictures. It's surefire. The only way to go wrong is when filmmakers deliver a sub-standard product within the aforementioned formula. Such is not the case with Chained Heat. It's first-rate all the way and might well be the one of the best chicks-in-prison picture ever made. If it's not that, it most certainly is one of the most vile of all.

The level of sleaze here is at its most taste-tempting. Chained Heat is, without question, a humungous bucket of scum - complete and utter filth. There are simply no two ways about it. Stick a Thermo-Trash-o-Meter up the picture's asshole and that ball of mercury is going to burst immediately upon insertion.

Now, is the movie any good? Yes and no. Director Paul Nicholas is barely competent in jockeying the camera, but - and it's a BIG BUT - the movie is so well produced in terms of filling it to overflowing with a genuinely GREAT cast, a bevy of unbelievably gorgeous babes and a screenplay that adheres to the formula perfectly, but throws in so many disgusting, nasty, jaw-dropping elements of utter moral putrescence that you'll constantly be in ever-increasing states of shock at just how foul and low a movie can go.

And frankly, it goes SO low, it's often a major laugh riot.

Here is where a barely competent director like Nicholas redeems himself - not as a camera jockey, but as a screenwriter. He is credited alongside one Vincent Mongol - an astounding nom-de-plume for a writer by the name of Aaron Butler, who decided to mask his given name in spite of the fact that he seems to be little more than a bit player and casting director so low on the totem pole of the movie industry, one wonders what he felt he needed to hide.

I'll refrain here from ripping off the delightful style of Trash Cinema Guru Joe Bob Briggs, but with Chained Heat, it's awfully tempting.

I first saw the film in one of the dankest, trashiest cinemas upon its first release in Winnipeg - a horrendous barn of a multiplex that was ALWAYS just a notch or two above a grindhouse (and still exists as a discount house and one of the few cinemas in downtown Winnipeg). The initial experience was laden with fond memories - sitting in the largest auditorium in the complex, I was surrounded by 500 drooling redneck 'Peggers adorned in plaid shirts, toques and armed with copious amounts of smuggled beers.

To say the audience was vocal would be a major understatement. This screening was not unlike sitting in the now-departed Tourist Hotel gentleman's club Teaser's in the lovely Francophone enclave of the Windy City - bonny St. Boniface - where fine fellows greedily slopped down hunks of ground beef and boiled potatoes drenched in watery gravy during the ever-popular "Business Man's Luncheon" wherein between bites, you quaffed a stubby of Extra Old Stock, hooted with gusto whilst a jamboree of scantily clad (and eventually buck naked) ladies strutted the stuff of womanhood, thrusting glorious depilated pudenda mere inches from your nose.

It's no wonder the inaugural audience was so infused with frenzied glee. Linda Blair, no longer a chubby teen, was now a chubby, amply-breasted young lady, but with a fine curriculum vitae of suffering - from The Exorcist (where she masturbated with a crucifix) through to the magnificent Born Innocent (where she is raped with a broom handle).


Linda Blair is a good girl. Linda Blair is innocent. Linda Blair is now incarcerated in a maximum security prison where the evil, corrupt warden (John Vernon) plies female inmates with booze, drugs and then has sex with them in his office hot tub, videotaping all his sexploits and keeping a huge DIY porn collection on hand for his edification. Many of these same women are bribed into being snitches for him and his head of security (Stella Stevens) who is in cahoots with a drug dealing prison employee (Henry Silva).

The entire plot follows the formula above and the movie is replete with rape, more rape, beatings, torture, rape, shower scenes, cat fights, more cat fights, rape, more shower scenes, sex (of a non-violent nature), a major riot and most importantly . . . a nude John Vernon in a hot tub with a bevy of buxom beauties.

The film is ultimately so morally reprehensible that it borders on surrealism. In fact, Chained Heat has no equals amongst the women in prison genre and is beaten hands-down by only one picture in film history, the notorious Ilsa: She-Wold of the S.S.

The VSC (Video Services Corp) "Third Strike" DVD is a must own collection. The other two films are a mixed bag: Red Heat is a ** (two-star) picture at best, but is worth seeing if only to witness Linda Blair duking it out with the gorgeous star of Emmanuelle, Sylvia Kristel. Jungle Warriors, a * (one-star) effort is worth seeing ONLY for the presence of John Vernon.

No matter. Chained Heat be in da house.

Ladies! Do your man a big favour. Shove this DVD in his Christmas stocking, let him force you to watch it after all the presents are open and then lie back as he performs his husbandly duties upon you in a manner that's guaranteed to induce multiple orgasms.

The CHAINED HEAT, RED HEAT, JUNGLE WARRIORS ("Third Strike" Deluxe 3-Movie DVD Collection from VSC) is the Christmas that keeps on giving - again and again and again.

Tuesday 27 November 2012


For the MAN in your Life.
For Christmas.

Here's your Greg Klymkiw Christmas Gift Suggestion #5 for 2012. "The Roller Derby Chronicles" is a must for all the menfolk nearest and dearest to you. From VSC (Video Service Corp) this is a 3-disc derby delight that features two documentaries (one contemporary, one a near-classic from 1971) and a whole mess of vintage Roller Derby matches from the late 40s to mid 70s. The discs come in a cool package that includes a mini-replica of a roller derby rink on the cover.

The Immortal Francine Kochu

The Roller Derby Chronicles: Rolling Thunder (2009) *** dir. Larry Gitnick
Starring: Donald Drewry, Gwen "Skinny Mini" Miller, Charlie O'Connell, Francine Kochu, Jerry Seltzer, Leo Seltzer

This 48-minute (standard television one-hour) documentary is a fast-paced, but informative and entertaining introduction to the strange "sport" of roller derby that for a 30-year period took America by storm. We see the early beginnings of roller derby as launched, invented and promoted by Leo Seltzer, its life, trajectory and near-death due to television in the 50s (they made more money on live shows than on TV licence fees and royalties). The film show the rebirth of roller derby under the guidance of Seltzer's son Jerry up to the pinnacle of its popularity in the 70s until it's death in the same decade due to the fuel crisis in America.

The doc is replete with lots of great roller derby footage from a variety of periods and deftly presents the rules of the game in addition to the various modifications over the years. The "action" is supported with new and period interviews with Roller Derby stars like Skinny Mini Miller, Charlie O'Connell and the lovely Francine Kochu.

Introduced and occasionally narrated by the delightfully cheesy dulcet tones of sports announcer Donald Drewry, Rolling Thunder is a terrific primer for anyone not familiar with roller derby and a wonderful walk (or roll) down memory lane for those of us who religiously watched Roller Derby on television and saw it live whenever we could. (As a kid I used to see Roller Derby in the old, packed-to-the-rafters 10,000-seat Winnipeg Arena.)

All in all, Rolling Thunder (obviously not to be confused with the great 70s post-Vietnam vigilante thriller with William Devane) is a terrific appetizer to the buffet dinner to come.

Cinema Verite Meets Roller Derby

The Roller Derby Chronicles: Derby (1971) ***1/2 dir. Robert Kaylor
Starring: Mike Snell, Charlie O'Connell

Review By Greg Klymkiw

If one looks at Rolling Thunder as a starter course and the two discs of actual Roller Derby matches as dessert, then 1971's Derby is a full-on gourmet main course.

Initially financed by the Roller Derby moguls to promote the sport and to focus on its biggest star Charlie O'Connell, the dream team of Derby's key creatives came up with something far more fascinating. While following the affable O'Connell around, the filmmakers are presented with a very happy accident. A young Mike Snell showed up whilst the cameras were rolling on O'Connell in the dressing room. Snell wants to play roller derby and zeroes in immediately upon the reigning star to get advice.

Snell has quit his back-breaking proletarian unskilled labour job, saved up three years worth of wages to learn the art of roller derby and with his wife's support, he's going to seek stardom in Roller Derby. To the filmmakers, this was too good to be true and we bounce back and forth between the grounded O'Connell and the live-wired irresponsibility of Snell. This guy is also a major cocksman and the film focuses on his philandering and even follows Snell's wife as she confronts one of his many lovers.

Yes, the movie is about Roller Derby, but it's also about the American Dream gone completely awry and though the picture peters out in its final minutes, it is, for the most part one of the most fascinating cinema verite documentaries of the period.

To anyone following this sort of thing, this should come as no surprise. The director is Robert Kaylor who went on to direct the flawed, but strangely compelling feature length drama Carny with Gary Busey, Robbie Robertson and Jodie Foster. The producer is William Richert who went on to direct one of the best political thriller satires of the 70s, Winter Kills with Jeff Bridges and John Huston. And last, but not least, Derby's editor is Anthony Potenza who'd go on to direct the famed rock-doc No Nukes, some of Bruce Springsteen's best videos as well as the epic Springsteen video anthology.

Derby is a winner all the way and a documentary that demands re-discovery!!!

Monday 26 November 2012

Le ciel est à vous - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Klymkiw's CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEA FOR 2012 #4 - From the Criterion Collection Eclipse Series, an exquisite 3-movie DVD Box Set: "Jean Grémillon During The Occupation"

Jean Grémillon is a revelation. Anyone who cares about moving pictures (and loves the medium as much, if not more than life itself) will want to discover this mad genius who is clearly as important to French cinema (and the art of movies) as Jean Renoir.
Here's your Greg Klymkiw Christmas Gift Suggestion #4 for 2012. From the Criterion Collection's outstanding Eclipse Series comes this amazing 3-movie DVD box set entitled "Jean Grémillon During The Occupation". Eclipse is a frills-free and affordable series of great and often obscure and/or unfairly forgotten works representing the highest degree of cinematic achievement. Though lacking the almost insane degree of added value materials one finds on many Criterion releases, the true frills are the movies themselves. Thus far, I've reviewed two of the three films on this box: "REMORQUES", a mad melodrama set against the exciting backdrop of those companies that specialized in traversing dangerous waters to rescue (and salvage) ships in peril and "Lumière d’été", an even nuttier melodrama involving a group of obsessive lovers and other strangers amidst a mountain resort. I always love discovering new films and filmmakers from earlier periods of cinema. Almost shamefully, however, I must admit that prior to diving headlong into this Criterion Eclipse Series, I'd never laid eyes upon a single film directed by Jean Grémillon, the French auteur celebrated in this great box of DVDs devoted to work he directed during the Nazi Occupation of France. I'd heard of him, of course, but what little I knew was the great story of how, as a young violinist in an orchestra that accompanied silent movies, he became entranced with the musicality of motion pictures, chucked his fiddle, entered the film business, cut his teeth as an editor, then became a prolific director whose career spanned over three decades. It's a great story and most cineastes are familiar with it. I, however, am glad I can now place a cinematic face to the story. Jean Grémillon rocks bigtime and so too does this third and final film in the Criterion Eclipse Box that I'll be reviewing.

Le ciel est à vous (1944) *****
dir. Jean Grémillon
Starring: Madeleine Renaud, Charles Vanel

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Le ciel est à vous is one of the great love stories in all of cinema history. It focuses on the love between a man and a woman (or in the parlance of Gallic romantics, un homme et une femme), their mutual love of aviation and their desire to pursue the freedom of the Heavens.

Pierre and Thérèse Gauthier (Charles Vanel and Madeleine Renaud, both radiant in their roles) are still madly in love after many years of marriage. When their home and business (a car repair shop) is expropriated to make way for a small airport, hangar and landing strip, the family moves to the centre of town and welcomes this otherwise inconvenient intrusion upon their lives as a sign that the 20th Century has finally arrived in their provincial hamlet. Pierre's skills and knowledge of engines eventually extend to assisting local aviators with mechanical problems they occasionally run into.

Though this is a film made (and set) in France during the 1940s under the Nazis and Vichy government, there are several universal elements inherent in Charles Spaak's screenplay that pretty much any couples will relate to on a universal level. Men, in such equations, are generally those who become collectors, pack-rats and/or obsessives whilst women are often more practical and family-oriented. The Gauthiers' fit this bill quite comfortably.

Pierre becomes so obsessed with flying that he begins exchanging his mechanical prowess for flying lessons and, eventually, earns his wings. Alas, when Pierre is injured, Thérèse makes him promise never to fly again - for fear that he'll suffer a worse fate. He agrees.

Boys, however, will be boys. He eventually sneaks off to fly again. Thérèse is, at first, in a rage, but in order to understand why her husband keeps risking his life, she too jumps in a plane.

The bug of aviation proves infectious. Husband and wife - soul mates to the end - infuse their loving marriage with a new passion. Their mutual love for aviation is, however, fraught with danger - a very real danger which seeks to end their love in this world forever. Most of all, though, the movie is populist cinema of the highest order, but blessed with a surprisingly original narrative.

Le ciel est à vous is a buoyant, funny, touching and compelling romance. Missing are Grémillon's usual perverse touches and melodrama, but they're happily replaced and enhanced with his sense of both romance and humanity. It is quite impossible to leave the tale at any moment and by the end, one desperately wants more. This is a good thing.

Amusingly, Grémillon seems all too aware that the film's political and historical contexts might well be stronger and sharper than ever. The movie not only appealed to the Nazis and Vichy government (for, as per usual, all the wrong reasons), while in reality, delivered another of Grémillon's clever, slightly submerged series of swipes at France's conquerors and traitors.

The result was one of France's hugest boxoffice successes, but even better, a movie that lived forever - well beyond its ephemeral qualities to deliver a love story for the ages: told with intelligence, sophistication and considerable political, historical and sociological importance.

I'm actually shocked this story has never been sought out by Hollywood to be remade. It's a great story and has numerous casting opportunities for contemporary stars. It really seems like a natural. Then again, since most executives can barely read, the notion of them having to read subtitles and worse, see a movie in standard frame black and white, means that we and the late, great Monsiuer Grémillon are safe from what would no doubt be an utter abomination.

For my reviews of the other two Grémillon films in this extraordinary Criterion Eclipse Box Set, feel free to visit HERE for "Remorques" and HERE for "Lumière d’été".

Sunday 25 November 2012

QUADROPHENIA - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Klymkiw's CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEA FOR 2012 #3 - The Deluxe Must-Own Criterion Collection Director Approved Blu-Ray & DVD

Sting's the Ace Face, Coolest Mod of All!

No surprise, really!

Here's your Greg Klymkiw Christmas Gift Suggestion #3 for 2012. It's the magnificent Criterion Collection - Director Approved Blu-Ray (or, if you must, DVD) of Franc Roddam's classic dramatic realization of the rock opera by The Who. This magnificent Criterion release includes a newly restored digital transfer supervised by cinematographer Brian Tufano which retains the vibrant, varied palette of colours, the glorious grain, the deep natural blacks and the blasts of night exterior practical lighting. Included is the original 2.0 stereo soundtrack and for audiophiles and cinephiles alike, a brand new 5.1 surround mix supervised by the Who and on the Blu-Ray, it's presented in DTS-HD Master Audio. The bonus treat includes a superb commentary track with director Franc Roddam and D.P. Brian Tufano - one of the best commentaries I've ever heard - replete with clear details of the filmmaking process and married to the picture with considerable skill. Another great bonus is a 1979 segment from the legendary BBC TV series "Talking Pictures" with excellent interviews and behind-the-scenes footage - SHOT ON FILM!!!!! As if this wasn't enough, you also get a wonderful segment from a 1964 episode of the French news program "Sept jours du monde" that focuses on the phenomenon of mods and rockers AND a very cool 1965 episode of the French youth-culture program "Seize millions de jeunes: Mods” that includes some of the earliest footage of The Who. There's also the usual Criterion assortment of additional interviews, an audio restoration demonstration, trailers and a lovely booklet that includes a critical essay, a personal history by the "original" mod Irish Jack and Pete Townshend’s legendary liner notes from the 1973 album by The Who. Not only a stellar package, but easily one of the top Blu-Ray releases of 2012.


Can you see, the Real Me?

Can you? Can you?

Quadrophenia (1979) Dir. Franc Roddam *****

Phil Daniels, Sting,
Ray Winstone, Leslie Ash,
Michael Elphick, Kate Williams,
Phillip Davis, Mark Wingett,
Gary Shail, Garry Cooper,
Toyak Wilcox, Trevor Laird,
John Bindon, Timothy Spall

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Franc Roddam's extraordinary film adaptation of Quadrophenia, the legendary rock opera by The Who, was unleashed theatrically over thirty years ago. Great movies never die, never date, never spoil, but do, in fact, get richer with each viewing and every passing year. Happily, Roddam's fictional rendering of the clashes between the Mods and Rockers, two ultra-cool youth subcultures of the early 1960s, blasts off the screen with the same unyielding force that it did in 1979. In my books, it's more than earned bonafide masterpiece status.

The writing by Dave Humphries, Martin Stellman and director Roddam yields, in the best collaborative tradition of cinema, a straightforward, but strong narrative that springboards from the emblematic music and Pete Townsend's dazzling liner notes on The Who's original album. Dialogue sizzles on a skillet, like pork bellies in an ocean of rich, heavily-salted butter, leaping with abandon into the mouths of the film's actors who, in turn, volley the finely foul, flavour-drenched, crepitating poetry of London's dirty, drizzle-drenched streets of the early 60s with the same force Martin Scorsese and Mardick Martin's writing did for New York's Little Italy in Mean Streets. Adding to the screenplay's savoury (or to some, unsavoury) broth is the wide array of vivid characters etched onto the compelling tale of youthful rebellion, camaraderie and disillusionment.

The writing is an ideal blueprint for director Roddam to take a running leap into a chasm of stylistically adventuresome helmsmanship - rendering a movie for the ages. Applying a documentary sensibility to the proceedings, Roddam creates a great picture that bristles with life itself against an exciting backdrop and a solid narrative backbone.

Jimmy (Phil Daniels), our decidedly uncharacteristic hero, works a dead-end job as a mail-boy, shuffling through labyrinthine corridors of an upscale advertising agency with all the excitement of a George Romero zombie bereft of even the desire to eat human flesh. In the evenings, he returns to his working class home wherein a harridan mother (Kate Williams) and abusive alcoholic father (Michael Elphick) harangue him over a lack of ambition and his lazy, hedonistic "carryings-on". Even his sister (Kim Neve), a Sirenian subungulate who spends endless hours lolling under a sunlamp is quick to condemn Jimmy's interests and lifestyle (which essentially boil down to The Who and partying).

He finds hi only real sense of family, of belonging, of being his own person within the Mod lifestyle, a hyper-snazzy youth culture devoted to impeccable fashion: suit jackets, thin ties, painted-on jeans, The Who ('natch), riding about on gloriously ornate Italian scooters and, of course, all the parties, pills and fellowship amongst like-minded scene-sters. There's also the shared rivalry Mods have with Rockers, the old style be-bop-a-lula types with their uncool leather jackets, ape-like pompadours and cumbersome motorcycles.

Gang warfare based solely upon mutual hatred is par for the course.

Mostly though, being a Mod is a whole lot of fun.

Jimmy has his eye on the beautiful Steph (Leslie Ash) with her glorious alabaster pigmentation, straight burnt-orange-coloured hair and (if we're to believe the Austin Powers movies regarding British oral health) a shockingly winning smile. His Steph's a bit of a tease, mind you, so our Pete Townsend lookalike (Jimmy has a poster of Pete above his bed) will settle for a few gropes and french kisses with the spunky Monkey (Toyah Willcox), a saucy, little devil with short-cropped platinum blonde hair and a grand, giggling sense of humour (as opposed to the vapid ice-queen Steph).

Monkey pines for Jimmy. Jimmy pines for Steph.

Ain't it always the way?

What's really on everyone's mind, however, is the upcoming May long weekend festivities at the seaside resort Brighton and preparations include the simple, but arduous task of getting pills (amphetamines, to be precise). Twixt parties and more parties Jimmy and his mates embark upon an odyssey to score their mind-altering drug of choice - searching high and low for their main connection Ferdy (Trevor Laird), visiting Harry North (John Bindon), a slimy gangster who rips them off with wax capsules and in desperation, a furious late-night attempt to break into a pharmacy.

Amidst the booze-and-pill-fuelled revelry, Jimmy happens upon Kevin (Ray Winstone), a boyhood chum. Flabbergasted to find his old pal is - shudder - a Rocker, he tentatively renews a friendship that eventually seems to pickup where it left off.

And then, it's time for the holiday weekend in Brighton.

Joy is imminent.

Disillusionment is potentially not too far behind.

A classic coming of age tale is born.

Astoundingly, Roddam achieves what few directors have been able to do with similar material (especially contemporary directors). He indeed makes the familiar tale universal without pandering to ephemeral needs of both audience and marketplace (save for one bit of expert casting). He does it by skillfully remaining true to the period in which the film is set and the era from whence the original album originated.

Here's a movie, made in the late 70s about events that at the time, were already well over ten years past and had been forgotten by much of the world outside of the UK. The Who were huge, as were other stellar lights of the British Rock Invasion, but "Mod" had become more synonymous with London style (and swinging) than an entire youth culture as significant as either the punks or skinheads or, for that matter, the Beat Generation.

Even a great American picture like George Lucas's American Graffiti offered, to most, a quaintly genteel nostalgic rendering of "happier times" a mere ten years after the "Where Were You in '62?" generation lived lives similar to those depicted in the movie. Lucas's film was, of course, instilled with the undercurrents and portents of the Vietnam War, but most audiences tended to don blinders to these aspects of the picture.

Not so, with Roddam's film.

Quadrophenia is a film firmly divided between haves and have-nots, youthful abandon and the dull maturity of adulthood, Mods and Rockers (of course), but most importantly, a sense of rage and rebellion in a world that demands conformity, a world fixed in a class structure determined and decided by those with no interest in the needs and desires of youth. One of the most simple and powerful moments that illustrates both the divide between classes and age occurs in the lavatory of the ad agency Jimmy works in. Two pompous executives natter-on and preen themselves whilst a hung-over Jimmy wretches in a stall, stumbles out towards the sinks and splashes water on his face. Throughout the entire scene, neither executive acknowledges the presence of Jimmy and even when he stands between them at the mirrors, they look at each other through him as if he was invisible.

Indeed, to the "ruling" class, people like Jimmy are always invisible. For Jimmy's generation and subsequent generations just like him, raging against the machine might not be the best solution, but sometimes it seems like the only solution.

Breaking Records Everywhere.

Even in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

By the time Quadrophenia was released theatrically, the Punk and New Wave revolutions were in full swing. To the eventually gluttonous brokers of power during the latter portion of the 2oth Century (those lefty hippies who became pseudo-lefty capitalists of the most abhorrent kind), Quadrophenia was NEVER going to inspire innocuous nostalgic sitcoms of the "Happy Days", "Laverne and Shirley" or, God Help Us, the "Joanie Loves Chachi" variety. Nor would it have inspired the fake-grit-gussied-up-with-Disco-Fever in John Badham's Saturday Night Fever in 1977 and especially not the most ludicrous piece of cotton candy nostalgia of 1978's Grease. With Quadrophenia, nobody would have been "Hopelessly Devoted To…" the pompadoured 50s greasers of Randal Kleiser's inexplicably revered film rendering of the hit Broadway play that proclaimed to the world that "GREASE is the word!", nor would they be raging a storm in the "Disco Inferno" of Saturday Night Fever.

By 1979, young people from the tail end of the Baby Boom and on the cusp of the McJob Generation X were greeted with this equally nostalgia-drenched period piece that spoke directly to them, but rather than being a gentle reminder of how things were so much more simple "back then", Roddam's film was ingrained with violent energy and a cloud of disillusionment that gave even post-war disillusion a run for its money.

My own personal history with discovering the film was seeing it first-run in a packed-to-the-Gods 2000-seat picture-palace in Winnipeg and seeing it again and again and again - along with friends, colleagues and likeminded strangers. Punk and New Wave was raging amongst the youth culture of even this mid-western Canadian city surrounded by flat wheat fields in every direction. The picture sparked its own style revolution and spoke directly to young adults who frequented the punks bar and social events of this otherwise sleepy city. Of course when the film ended its surprisingly successful first run, I secured it for my own repertory cinema and played it incessantly at midnight shows and the like - to packed houses.

We lived as far away from London as one could imagine and certainly those of us who felt disenfranchised by our parents' generation and worse, those horrendous hogs-at-the-trough of the early-to-mid-baby-boom, embraced Quadrophenia as our own. Granted, Canada was, in fact, little more than a colonial remnant and was a country we grew up referring to as "The Dominion of Canada" and certainly in a city like Winnipeg, we were well aware of the province's unique history of rebellion against the old money WASPS in "Central" Canada.

This is a personal reminiscence, but illustrates how far reaching the film's grip on youth audiences actually went. People the world over - especially in English-speaking enclaves of the British Commonwealth - understood and identified with the plight of Mods and Rockers alike from a period of time over a decade old and in a film from a contemporary director who made a piece of Britain's youth history akin to our own.

Over the years, I've shown the film to younger generations and its power to thrill and move has not abated.

A lot of this, frankly, comes from Roddamn's brilliant work as a director. Though he casts his lens in verite fashion, he does so without the almost de rigueur shaky cam and sloppy non-lighting of the dogme-tistes of the late 90s and, even more offensive, the seemingly endless youth indie features from the last ten or so years (especially the wretched "mumble core" abominations).

Roddam, blessed with cinematographer Brian Tufano's first-rate lensing is, in fact, much closer to the Italian Neo-realist tradition - Vittorio DeSica in particular. Using deft compositions, elegant camera movement (not always flashy, but DRAMATICALLY effective) and an exquisite blend of practical lighting and just enough available light, the film paints a vivid, gritty portrait. The look never calls attention to itself save for when it's absolutely necessary in dramatic terms.

It's a rough-hewn classical approach that draws us in closer and/or presents a wide-eyed view to always place us squarely in the action of the story. When need be, we're fly-in-the-room viewers, following the action in long takes. Look, for example, to Jimmy's extraordinary entrance during the first party scene where the take appears to go on forever, but is so focused upon the dramatic action that we pretty much don't notice the camera work (unlike the numerous Scorsese/Goodfellas-inspired steadicam shots throughout the past 20 years).

To a certain extent, Roddam and Tufano even allow us to be participants in the dramatic action - look to some of the extraordinary shots during the Brighton riots sequence, or most evocatively, a scene where Jimmy and Steph, avoiding the cacophony of the riots, make out in a back-alley haven.

The casting and direction of the actors is so dead-on that again, we're reminded of DeSica's use of non-actors in dramatic roles. Phil Daniels as Jimmy was a complete revelation when Quadrophenia first appeared. His natural on-screen charisma was so strong that he lets us empathize and at times, even like a character who, at many moments, is downright obnoxious. Daniels here, was so tremendous, that lovers of BritPics across the pond scoured the movie ads for mention of his name and indeed, we thrilled to his occasional roles in works such as Scum, The Class of Miss MacMichael and Breaking Glass. (These days, after a successful stint as a rock musician, Daniels has become a prolific working actor on stage and screen. He even did the voice work on the Rat character in the popular animated film Chicken Run.)

Phil Daniels: Pete Townsend Surrogate "Jimmy"

As a sidenote, Johnny Rotten (Lydon) of The Sex Pistols (and eventually Public Image Limited) was auditioned and offered the role of Jimmy. Thank Christ none of the financiers were willing to pay the huge insurance premiums on Lydon since Daniels is so tremendous, I couldn't actually imagine anyone else playing Jimmy.

Besides, the film has a marvelous piece of stunt casting that works perfectly. Sting as the Mod King, Ace Face, is cooler than cool. Not only that, but I suspect it was a role he strongly identified with - he himself came from modest lower middle class beginnings and worked odd jobs for years - not unlike the one Ace Face is revealed to have during the picture's climactic moments. As well, it wasn't just stunt casting - the camera always loved Sting. Also, given that The Police had just released their first album a few months before the film's release, it made perfect casting sense on both a marketing level - as well as an aesthetic one. Quadrophenia was, after all, a film that appealed to punks and new wavers who strongly identified with the Mods. Decades later, Sting is not only emblematic to several generations for his always cool music styling, but his genuine activism on behalf of the disenfranchised the world over.

Given Sting's own early class struggles, and in fact, one of the huge flaws within Britain's class system

The young actors playing The Mods all acquit themselves strongly with the naturalistic verve of non-actors (some were, some weren't) and in the only supporting role of any substance representing the Rockers is the very young, handsome and hunky Ray Winstone as Jimmy's old school chum. Winstone's performance, given the eventual fate of his character, is genuinely moving - especially in how he and his character poignantly offer a foreshadowing of the negative aspects of fake individuality through conformity and signalling, the beginning of the end for even Jimmy's character.

All the adult roles are filled out beautifully with a winning array of Britain's best character actors. Michael Elphick and Kate Williams as Jimmy's Dad and Mom share the qualities Phil Daniels is imbued with - playing seemingly reprehensible characters, but with enough in the way of balance and layering to breathe humanity in them. The late Elphick (who tragically died a few years ago from a heart attack related to his extremely debilitating alcoholism) was a regular on the EastEnders TV series, but for me, he'll remain etched as the foul night watchman in the hospital housing John Merrick in David Lynch's The Elephant Man and here as the brutish, working class boozer, who below his gruff surface, just wants to understand his son.

The Late, Great Michael Elphick:

A Father's Love for his Son

Finally, that IS what Quadrophenia is really all about - understanding, or rather, the lack thereof. Because the picture is so well written and directed, it takes experiences from a long time ago in a world that no longer exists, but makes them universal. Pete Townsend's lyrics for "The Real Me" are as evocative a summation of the film's thematic resonance as any:

I went back to the doctor To get another shrink. I sit and tell him about my weekend, But he never betrays what he thinks.
Can you see the real me, doctor?
I went back to my mother I said, "I'm crazy ma, help me." She said, "I know how it feels son, 'Cause it runs in the family."
Can you see the real me, mother?
The cracks between the paving stones Look like rivers of flowing veins. Strange people who know me Peeping from behind every window pane. The girl I used to love Lives in this yellow house. Yesterday she passed me by, She doesn't want to know me now.
Can you see the real me, can you?
I ended up with the preacher, Full of lies and hate, I seemed to scare him a little So he showed me to the golden gate.
Can you see the real me preacher? Can you see the real me doctor? Can you see the real me mother? Can you see the real me?

I daresay the power of the film, what it hammers home so truthfully AND entertainingly is that thing we've all felt. Anyone who claims they've never wanted an answer to the question, "Can you see the real me?", is frankly, a liar.

Most importantly, like Jimmy, as the film and Townsend's great song reveal, we all pose the question and need the answer, but ultimately, we neglect to pose the question and look for the answer in ourselves.

It's Jimmy's journey.

And ours.

And it's one hell of a journey!

Saturday 24 November 2012


Greg Klymkiw's 10 Favourite Scary Movies of All-Time

All the movies listed here make ideal gifts to bestow upon those celebrating the birth of Baby Jesus H. Christ!

Below you'll find a handy-dandy list representing my current 10 All-Time Favourite Scary Genre Pictures. These are, frankly, worth watching any time of year and are movies I tend to watch at least once a year myself. For fun, and because 10 is a ridiculous number, you'll find a more exhaustive list of my favourite scary movies way at the bottom.

So make your list and check it twice!!!

Please note: This list is alphabetical.

Watch 'em and please feel free to soil yourself!

Alien (1979) Ridley Scott
The best and scariest Alien of all.
No matter how many times you watch it, everyone will hear you scream.

Black Sunday (1960) Mario Bava
Drawer filling adaptation of Gogol with first-rate witch burnings, the gorgeous Barbara Steele and Bava style galore.

The Cat People (1942) Jacques Tourneur/Val Lewton

Defined horror on film forever, still sends chills down the spine and ruined many a walk in the park after dark.

The Exorcist (1973) William Friedkin
Scariest. Movie. Ever. The power of Christ compels thee, indeed.

Freaks (1932) Tod Browning
NEVER fuck a freak over. You could become one yourself.
Creep-fest from the MOST perverse director in the studio system.

The Haunting (1963) Robert Wise
Great ghost thriller. Wise created this nerve wracking film in the Lewton tradition.

Nosferatu (1922) F.W. Murnau
Stunning expressionism and still the creepiest, scariest and most vile vampire picture ever made.
Max Schrek still comes closest to Stoker's vision of Dracula.

Rosemary's Baby (1968) Roman Polanski
Devil worship and paranoia at its finest.
Pray for her baby, Pray to replace your soiled panties.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Tobe Hooper
Masterpiece of nightmare logic delivers mise-en-scene seldom matched in modern horror.

The Thing (1982) John Carpenter
Carpenter's finest piece of direction yields edge of the seat terror from beginning to end.

Okay, because ten movies might just not be enough, here's a whole whack of my favourite scary movies. Not all of them are strictly horror movies, but they all scare the shit out of me in some fashion or another. Enjoy!

10 Rillington Place by Richard Fleischer
Alice Sweet Alice by Alfred Sole
American Mary by Jen and Sylvia Soska
An American Werewolf in London by John Landis
Antichrist by Lars von Trier
Asylum by Roy Ward Baker
Basket Case by Frank Henenlotter
Bedlam by Mark Robson/Val Lewton
Black Cat, The by Edgar G. Ulmer
Black Christmas by Bob Clark
Black Sabbath by Mario Bava
Black Sunday by Mario Bava
Body Snatcher, The by Robert Wise/Val Lewton
Boston Strangler, The by Richard Fleischer
Body Snatchers by Abel Ferrara
Bride and the Beast, The by Adrien Weiss/Ed Wood
Bride of Frankenstein, The by James Whale
Brides of Dracula by Terence Fisher
Brood, The by David Cronenberg
Bug by William Friedkin
Cabinet of Dr. Caligari by Robert Wiene
Cape Fear by J. Lee Thompson
Carnival of Souls by Herk Harvey
Carrie by Brian De Palma
Castle of Blood by Antonio Margheriti
Changeling, The by Peter Medak
Citadel by Ciaran Foy
City of the Dead by John Llewellyn Moxey
Creature from the Black Lagoon by Jack Arnold
Cruising by William Friedkin
Curse of the Cat People by Robert Wise/Val Lewton
Dark Water by Hideo Nakata
Dawn of the Dead by George Romero
Dead of Night by Hamer/Dearden/Crichton/Cavalcanti
Deliverance by John Boorman
Descent, The by Neil Marshall
Devil Rides Out, The by Terence Fisher
Don’t Look Now by Nicholas Roeg
Dracula by Tod Browning
Dressed to Kill by Brian DePalma
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Rouben Mamoulian
Duel by Steven Spielberg
Entity, The by Sidney J. Furie
Evil Dead, The by Sam Raimi
Eyes Without A Face by Georges Franju
Father's Day by Astron-6
Fly, The by David Cronenberg
Frankenstein by James Whale
Frenzy by Alfred Hitchcock
Ghost Ship by Mark Robson/Val Lewton
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer by John McNaughton
House of Dark Shadows by Dan Curtis
Howling, The by Joe Dante
Incredible Shrinking Man, The by Jack Arnold
Innocents, The by Jack Clayton
Invaders From Mars by William Cameron Menzies
Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Don Siegel
Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Phil Kaufman
Invisible Man, The by James Whale
Island of Lost Souls by Erle C. Kenton
Isle of the Dead by Mark Robson/Val Lewton
I Walked With A Zombie by Jacques Tourneur/Lewton
Jaws by Steven Spielberg
Kwaidan by Masaki Kobayashi
Last Man On Earth, The by Ubaldo Ragoda/Sidney Salkow
Leopard Man, The by Jacquea Tourneur/Val Lewton
Let's Scare Jessica To Death by John Hancock
Let The Right One In by Tomas Alfredson
M by Fritz Lang
Mad Love by Karl Freund
Man Who Laughs, The by Paul Leni
Masque of the Red Death by Roger Corman
Midnight Son by Scott Leberecht
Mummy, The by Karl Freund
Night of the Demons by Jacques Tourneur
Night of the Living Dead by George Romero
Omen, The by Richard Donner
Paranormal Activity by Oren Peli
Phantom of the Opera by Rupert Julian
Play Misty For Me by Clint Eastwood
Poltergeist by Tobe Hooper
Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock
Pulse by Kioshi Kurosawa
Pyx, The by Daryl Duke
Rabid by David Cronenberg
Race With The Devil by Jack Starett
Re-Animator, The by Stuart Gordon
[REC] by Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza
Repulsion by Roman Polanski
Ring, The by Gore Verbinski
Ringu by Hideo Nakata
Road, The by John Hillcoat
Seventh Victim, The by Mark Robson/Val Lewton
Shining, The by Staney Kubrick
Shivers by David Cronenberg
Silent Partner, The by Daryl Duke
Sisters by Brian De Palma
Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The by Charles Jarrot/Dan Curtis
Straw Dogs by Sam Peckinpah
Suspiria by Dario Argento
Tales From The Crypt by Freddie Francis
Targets by Peter Bogdanovich
Tenant, The by Roman Polanski
Terminal Man, The by Mike Hodges
Uninvited, The by Lewis Allem
Vampires by John Carpenter
Vampyr by Cark Dreyer
War of the Worlds by Steven Spielberg
Werewolf of London by Stuart Walker
Westworld by Michael Crichton
White Zombie by Victor Halperin
Wicker Man, The by Robin Hardy
Wolf Man, The by George Waggner
X - The Man With The X-Ray Eyes by Roger Corman

Friday 23 November 2012

ROSEMARY'S BABY - Review By Greg Klymkiw - CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEA FOR 2012 #1 - Criterion Collection Director Approved Blu-Ray & DVD

Abe Sapirstein Says:

"This Xmas, HAIL SATAN!

Give the gift that keeps on giving."

Here's your Greg Klymkiw Christmas Gift Suggestion #1 for 2012. Everyone you love will deserve this special treat to celebrate the birth of Jesus H. Christ, Our Lord. It's the magnificent Criterion Collection - Director Approved Blu-Ray (or, if you must, DVD) of Roman Polanski's masterpiece of utter horror, "Rosemary's Baby, brought to you with an all-new, restored digital transfer, that's been approved by director Roman Polanski, with (my favourite) an uncompressed monaural soundtrack. Add the following delectables: a new doc with interviews featuring Polanski, Mia Farrow and Robert Evans; an interview with the author of the bestselling novel the movie is based on, Ira Levin; "Komeda, Komeda", a feature-length doc on the life and work of Krzysztof Komeda, who wrote the chilling score for everyone's favourite cinematic buffet of Satan; A nifty booklet featuring an essay by Ed Park; Levin’s afterword to the 2003 New American Library edition of his novel; and Levin’s rare, unpublished character sketches of the Woodhouses and floor plan of their apartment, created in preparation for the novel.

Can it possibly get any better than this to commemorate Our Lord Baby Jesus being expunged from the virgin loins of Mother Mary? You bet it doesn't. This is the gift that keeps on giving, so give it with love to those you love.

Rosemary's Baby (1968) *****
dir. Roman Polanski
Starring: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Maurice Evans, Sidney Blackmer, Ralph Bellamy, Charles Grodin, Elisha Cook Jr.

Review By Greg Klymkiw

We've all had neighbours, friends, family and/or mere acquaintances who - no matter how well intentioned - just suck the life right out of you. Their ubiquitous presence and meddling (disguised as a helping hand) gets to a point where you just don't want to answer the door or telephone, or in this day and age, go online. In fact, you sometimes even contemplate killing these loathsome, hematophagous hirudinean parasites. And make no mistake, they come in all shapes, sizes and persuasions. Some of them might even worship - yup, you guessed it - Satan!

I must frankly admit I've always had a soft spot for devil worship.

In the movies, that is.

The cult aspect of devil worship is what's probably the most frightening. Val Lewton's The Seventh Victim is probably the first great horror movie to deal with the evil of cults and the insidious way they target their prospective members/victims, then suck them dry. Also great fun is The Devil Rides Out, that great Hammer Horror picture directed by Terence Fisher and starring Christopher Lee as the Satanist-battling hero and Charles Gray (the expert criminologist from The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Ernst Stavros Bloefeld, 007's nemesis in Diamonds Are Forever) as the perverse, evil devil worshipper who's into sacrificing any number of buxom beauties to his Lord and Master. And, of course, nobody in their right mind could ever forget Warren Oates and Peter Fonda in Jack Starret's brilliant and sadly unsung Race With The Devil wherein our heroes try to outrun Satanists in their (I kid you not!) Winnebago.

In the cinematic devil worship sweepstakes, nothing quite beats Roman Polanski's classic big-screen adaptation of Ira Levin's compulsive best-selling novel Rosemary's Baby. Produced by veteran horror director and producer William Castle, this movie was one of the biggest hits of the late 60s and has remained, for over forty years, one of the truly great horror thrillers of all time. A recent helping of the picture confirmed that it's still as terrific as it always was.

Opening under the strains of Krzysztof Komeda's score under ace cinematographer William Fraker's overhead shots of Manhattan, Rosemary's Baby immediately grips you with its off-kilter lullaby to a dead baby (as composed by Erik Satie in a REALLY foul mood) and featuring vocals more at home in an Oil of Olay commercial. The music plays over shots that make New York feel less like a bustling modern metropolis, but rather, some baroque, almost decrepit old world labyrinth of brick - adorned with turrets and rusting water towers.

The camera eventually settles above a gorgeous 19th century building and we soon focus our attention on a newlywed couple, Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse (Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes) who are about to be shown an apartment by the friendly, but slightly weasel-like caretaker (Elisha Cook Jr.). Of course Rosemary adores it, though Guy displays some trepidation over the rent - he's a struggling actor getting by on the occasional TV commercial and off-off-off-Broadway theatrical piece.

Soon they settle into their new home. A series of odd discoveries and strange noises are noted, but not fretted over too much. What there IS to fret about are their neighbours, a childless old couple, Minnie and Roman Castavet (Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer). They seem friendly enough, but insinuate themselves immediately upon the couple - borrowing cups of sugar, endless dinner invitations, dropping by unannounced, recommending (rather insistently) all sorts of things that are really none of their business. Though it drives Rosemary bonkers, her hubby Guy is eating it up and spending all his free time with these batty old people.

A series of tragedies occur. A young woman jumps from the top of the building. Guy loses an important audition, but within days, he finds out that the actor who got the role instead of him has gone mysteriously blind. An old family friend (Maurice Evans) suffers a massive stroke.

Then Rosemary's dreams begin - nightmares, really. An especially horrific dream occurs when Guy purportedly has sex with her when she passes out.

And then she gets pregnant. All should be well. Guy has been offered the role he initially lost. His star begins to rise. The Castavets, with Guy's eager approval insist Rosemary switch doctors and send her to their old friend Abe Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy), one of the most respected family doctors in the country.

Rosemary, however, is not happy. They've drifted away from every friend who was their contemporary. They are spending endless social evenings with the Castavets, Sapirstein and a whole bunch of old people. Worst of all, Rosemary is getting weaker and sicker with each passing day. Instead of gaining weight, she becomes anorexically skinny. The baby inside of her feels dead. Dr. Sapirstein keeps insisting nothing's wrong and she's forced to ingest a putrid herbal drink that Minnie Castavet prepares under the doctor's orders.

Oh, and then, there's the chanting. Every night. From the apartment of the Castavets.

Clues and research yield to the inevitability that everyone in Rosemary's life is a Satanist and that her baby is being groomed - not for life, but for sacrifice.

Or so Rosemary believes.

Sacrifice would be a blessing.

What's in store for her baby is a lot worse.

As Polanski has almost become the final word in thrillers infused with paranoia, Rosemary's Baby oozes creepy portent and when things get serious, the movie is unbearably scary. Polanski delivers a measured, slowly mounting sense of dread. When the terror shifts into fuel-injected overdrive, few thrillers can only hope to be even a fraction of this picture in terms of pure, unadulterated horror.

Every performance in this movie is a gem. Mia Farrow is suitably gamine and vulnerable, but where she really shines are those moments when WE know she's not crazy, but everyone (other than the Satanists) think she's completely bonkers. Cassavetes as her hubby, oozes slime - almost from the beginning, really. Where he really knocks the ball out of the park are those moments when he displays revulsion at the mere thought of having to touch his wife after she's pregnant. He's almost more frightening than the true evil all around her. Coming close to stealing the movie, however, is former golden age comedy star Ralph Bellamy as the kindly (on the surface) Abe Sapirstein. As the movie progresses, he seldom lets down his guise as the helpful family doctor - he plays it so straight that we begin to suspect he's deeply in cahoots with the Satanists. Some of his advice to Rosemary is so ludicrous in light of what WE see happening to her and what she herself feels, that he becomes the most malevolent of all the movie's antagonists. Bellamy's performance is so astonishing that it might be hard to trust any kindly old G.P. who's coming at you with a hypodermic.

(Oh, and as a sidenote: ABE SAPIRSTEIN!!! Is this not a GREAT character name? All the character names novelist Ira Levin conjured are brilliant, but "Abe Sapirstein" takes the cake big time!)

Rosemary's Baby is as close to perfection as any movie can come - every detail, every dramatic beat, every shudder-inducing moment and every knock-you-on-your-ass horror set piece is proof-positive of Polanski's genius. His work in Rosemary's Baby reminds me of that great speech Violet Venable gives in Tennessee Williams's "Suddenly Last Summer" when she describes her trip to the Encantadas and focuses on the "hatching of the great sea turtles and their race to the sea" and how the "flesh-eating birds ...hovered and swooped to attack" until finally, they turn over the newborn sea turtles in order to "attack their soft undersides, tearing their undersides open and rending and eating their flesh."

This is Polanski in a nutshell. He's the consummate filmmaker and as such, is a predator - rending and eating the flesh of his characters AND the audience.

In Rosemary's Baby, he takes the commonplace and slowly, creepily and nastily drags both his heroine and the audience through a bed of glowing hot coals. It's often the quiet that's so unsettling. When the quiet yields - ever so rarely, but effectively, to shrill, shrieking and almost unspeakable horror - you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you're under the spell of a master.

Hail Cinema!

Hail Polanski!

Hail Satan!