Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Auf Wiedersehen

All good things--and this blog--must come to an end.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Fantômas (1998 Artificial Eye DVD)
Directed by Louis Feuillade
France, 1913-14
Silent with French intertitles and an English translation
(see review at Caravana de recuerdos)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Missing (2008 DVD)
Directed by Costa-Gavras
USA, 1982
In English and Spanish with English subtitles
(see the review at Caravana de recuerdos)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Let the Right One In

Låt den rätte komma in [Let the Right One In]
Directed by Tomas Alfredson
Sweden, 2008
In Swedish with English subtitles

"Would you still like me if I wasn't a girl?" is the question of the hour in this new Swede vampire flick set in a grim and wintry 1982, an atmospheric snowbound thriller that pairs intermittently gory scenes with a sweet love story between two twelve year old outcasts. The problem with all this is that one of the kids, the otherwise adorable Eli (Lina Leandersson, nearly perfect here), prefers human blood to candy, a trait that will severely test her ties to the socially-awkward, constantly-bullied Oskar (Kare Hedebrant, also convincing) who clearly has some measure of blood lust of his own due to the abuse he takes at school. Although the scenes of vampire carnage are almost entirely goofy in comparison to the chilling way that the first victim is done in by a human predator at the beginning of the movie, director Alfredson still deserves props for his great visual style, an accomplished use of silence and sound (Per Gessle's garagey "Kvar i min bil" is even reminiscent of Jeanette's "¿Porque te vas?" in Cría Cuervos), and for coming up with a non-sexual "romance" as convincing as it is unconventional. Worth seeing but nowhere near as flawless as some people would have you believe. Rating: 3/5 stars.

Lina Leandersson really sinks her teeth into the role of Eli

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Scarlet Empress

The Scarlet Empress (2001 DVD)
Directed by Josef von Sternberg
USA, 1934
In English

Although movie buffs of all persuasions have tended to portray this as a "camp classic" over the years, I can only agree with the first half of that description. Marlene Dietrich, a/k/a the sex symbol who's not very sexy, and John Lodge, sort of a poor man's Clark Gable, are downright ridiculous in their performances as Catherine the Great and one of her many legions of lovers here, and the film as a whole sports some of the worst acting and dialogue you'll ever see outside of an Ashton Kutcher vehicle--not that I've ever seen any of those beyond the TV spots! Control freak Von Sternberg's stupendous images, justly-famous lighting, and gargoyle-filled sets do make this worth taking a look at, but even Sam Jaffe's hysterical turn as royal halfwit Grand Duke Peter and some occasional moments of Buñuelesque humor (a shot of a man being used as a human clapper inside a gigantic bell suddenly dissolving into a scene of the frisky young princess riding on a swing; the take where an imperial doctor loses his wig while performing a just pre-code gynecological exam of the future empress to assess her potential for bringing a male heir to the Russian throne) make it hard to overlook the casting deficiencies. All in all, a rather inept film for the sound era but one that might have deserved the hype as a silent. (

"Catherine the Great" and horse put an end to the rumors

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Salvatore Giuliano

Salvatore Giuliano (2004 DVD)
Directed by Francesco Rosi
Italy, 1961
In Italian with English subtitles
(see the review at Caravana de recuerdos)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Eastern Promises

Eastern Promises (2008 DVD)
Directed by David Cronenberg
Canada and UK, 2007
In English with subtitles in French and Spanish

Well-crafted but ultimately unsatisfying mob film about the Russian mafia in London. While Viggo Mortensen (nominated for a Best Actor Oscar) and Naomi Watts do standout work as a mob "driver" and a midwife whose lives cross after a 14-year old sex trafficking victim from Russia dies in labor at the midwife's hospital, the actors who portray father and son villains Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl) and Kirill (Vincent Cassel) are annoyingly cartoonish as they try to outwit rival Chechens and each other. I'm willing to give Cronenberg some sort of serious props for making this normally jaded moviegoer flinch at least three times due to the in-your-face nature of the onscreen violence, but the film as a whole suffers from an increasingly implausible storyline and a pat ending that betrays the significance of its major themes. "Stylish" but a bit of a dud. Rating: 2.5/5 stars. (