Wednesday, October 17, 2007

So... yeah. Nathaniel at Film Experience is hosting a Montgomery Clift blogathon. I planned to whip up something for it, but alas, my schedule lately has been somewhat hectic (as if it ever isn't), so I've got nothing to write about. Even if I did, though, I doubt any tribute I could pull together would exceed the marvelous tribute he got back in 1979. And through the magic of YouTube, some enterprising soul has given this tribute the context in which it deserves to be seen. So, without further ado, here he is: Montgomery Clift, honey!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sex and Fury (1973)

The lack of focus that marred Norifumi Suzuki's otherwise-awesome School of the Holy Beast rears its ugly head as well for Suzuki's kaleidoscopic female-revenge saga. I know two films in is a bit early to be making value judgements about a filmmaker's body of work, but on the evidence I have thus far, Suzuki lacks the artistic rigor of Shunya Ito, nor does he have the spark of lysergic inspiration that make Seijun Suzuki's equally digressive narratives more than trashy genre assignments. Curmudgeonly complaints aside, though, this is still enjoyably demented stuff. The peak comes early on, with an out-of-nowhere slow-motion swordfight featuring a very naked Reiko Ike defending herself in a bathhouse. Also not to be discounted is Christina Lindberg, spine-meltingly hot even when haltingly speaking in two languages she doesn't know. (Her final scene, with her body spinning and her hair flying, is pretty impressive.) The bold, eye-filling primary colors, saturated in that Japanese-'70s-cinema sort of way, give the film the air of a particularly deranged comic book, as do the myriad closeups of eyes and creative lighting schemes, and every now and then Suzuki will pause to whip out a scene like the late-film scouraging of Ike, complete with stained-glass Jesus in the background, that gives the hazy plot some much-needed oomph. Also, there is nudity, lots of fucking, etc.

Grade: B-

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Exterminating Angels (2007)

It's like the goofball would-be profundity of the last twenty minutes of Secret Things expanded to feature length and given a shiny new coat of self-reflexivity. Shamefully entertaining as long as there's women rubbing on themselves and/or each other, Jean-Claude Brisseau's feature-length alibi for alleged inappropriate behavior becomes far less interesting whenever any of the characters open their mouths to speak. All the luminous cinematography in the world can't keep this from feeling a lot silly and a little self-serving, though it does redeem itself somewhat in the home stretch when it turns inside out the naive-innocent persona Brisseau has set up for himself via surrogate Francois (played as straight-faced as possible by Frédéric van den Driessche). Art-porn is all well and good, but justifying it to oneself kinda takes the teeth out of it.

Grade: C+
Malibu High (1979)

This film should really be better known among sleaze aficionados. The title and poster suggest a fizzy sex comedy along the lines of The Cheerleaders, and there's a tonal lightness that would initially confirm that impression. But what we really get is a cheerfully immoral portrait of a youth gone wild made all the skeevier by the jovial tone. Jill Lansing plays Kim Bentley, wayward woman extraordinaire, who decides to start sleeping with her teachers as a means towards better grades, and though she's one of the worst actresses I've ever seen, she does carry a haughty snideness about her that paradoxically makes her character's ugly actions convince better than a more refined acting job might. Kim begins as a garden-variety slut but soon descends to far more rotten territory with nary a change in her demeanor; the low-grade thrum of enjoyment I get from typical drive-in cheese became a torrent of sick-eyed amazement around the time that Kim gets involved with the nicest pimp in the world and... well, it would be rude of me to give away the direction in which this shoots off. The poor acting, indifferent direction, harsh lighting and last-minute moralizing suggest an Afterschool Special gone horribly, horribly wrong, and while I can't defend it on any artistic grounds, I would compel a certain strain of cinephile (you know who you are) to give this a look. In its own fucked-up way, it's kind of awesome.

Grade: C+