Thursday, December 13, 2018

Three Years Without God (Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos, Mario O'Hara)

Two women

Last October my mother died.

Which to the world at large may not mean much. But it was with her in mind that I saw the digitally restored version of Mario O'Hara's Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos (Three Years Without God, 1976), recently released on iTunes.

Not an inappropriate choice. I was in a dark mood and the film--well the title says it all: three years so awful the people felt abandoned by God. 

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Wichita (Jacques Tourneur, 1955)

A good man with a gun

(Yet another film on the soon-to-vanish (Nov. 29) Filmstruck--in this case easily found on other venues (Google Play and iTunes) but difficult to find in Cinemascope; even Turner Classic Movies resorted to showing the cropped pan-and-scan version. Filmstruck presents the film in its original aspect ratio, and if ever the term 'quietly glorious' applied to a picture it applies to this. Again the plea: make the site (or one like it) available again--and available to other countries!

Say the name 'Jacques Tourneur' and the first word that comes to mind for most folks is 'horror' (the second possibly 'cat'). Tourneur has been directing since 1931 (mainly shorts) finally made a splash in the early '40s working for producer Val Lewton in Cat People (lowbudget, eerily beautiful) and I Walked With a Zombie (despite the pulpy title, my favorite adaptation of Jane Eyre). Say his name and the word 'westerns' rarely pops up--but his westerns do in fact represent some of his finest most memorable work.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

To Be or Not To Be (Ernst Lubitsch, 1942)

Springtime for Hitler

(Another in a series of tributes to the lamentable closing of Filmstruck, which not only shows rare films (Robert Bresson's The Trial of Joan of Arc) but also Hollywood classics--a comedy which if anything is still relevant today

Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not to Be opened to mixed reviews and so-so box office. A comedy that poked fun at Nazism and Adolf Hitler? At a time when fascism threatened to swallow the world (Pearl Harbor happened a few months before)?

Casablanca was released later that same year to better acclaim and boxoffice; Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator came out two years earlier to good business, despite being banned in parts of Europe and Latin America. Regarding this film Bosley Crowther in The New York Times harumphed: "To say it is callous and macabre is understating the case."

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Trial of Joan of Arc (Proces de Jeanne d'Arc, Robert Bresson)

Joan unornamented

(Robert Bresson's film is available for streaming on Filmstruck, which will shut down by November 29; is still available though less readily on Amazon; should ideally be on a streaming service accessible everywhere including the Philippines (Filmstruck is confined to the USA) but alas isn't.)

The first film to come to mind viewing this stony ground of a picture is Carl Th. Dreyer's silent film, a series of gigantic closeups shuffled through at speed, arguably the most revered and the best-known version of the story.

Robert Bresson's response? "Grotesque buffooneries."

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Halloween (David Gordon Green, 2018)

Mommy direst

Part of what makes Halloween (2018) remarkable: the return of John Carpenter (helped with the music score); the return of Nick Castle (provided the heavy breathing and at one point actually plays masked killer Michael Myers); the return of Jamie Lee Curtis (reprising the role that made her famous, Laurie Strode). But for me what really sets this sequel apart from the ten other sequels reboots remakes and so on is a new name: David Gordon Green.

Friday, October 26, 2018

First Man (Damien Chazelle)

Huston we have a problem

You need to keep reminding yourself: Damien Chazelle's adaptation of James Hansen's biographical book First Man is not The Right Stuff and astronaut Neil Armstrong (played by Ryan Gosling) is no Chuck Yeager nor was it--or he--meant to be. Question: does it still manage to stand on its own four radically redesigned fins?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

A Star is Born (Bradley Cooper, 2018)

Star wars

There are as of this writing five count em five different versions of the story, of an ambitious young artist in love with a declining old star: George Cukor's What Price Hollywood? (1932) where film director Max Carey (Lowell Sherman) takes an interest in aspiring actress Mary Evans (Constance Bennett), based on a story by Adela Rogers St. John and Louis Stevens; William Wellman's A Star is Born (1937) where film star Norman Maine (Fredric March) spots aspiring actress Esther Blodgett (Janet Gaynor); Cukor's 1954 A Star is Born--for many the definitive version--where James Mason as Maine hooks up with Judy Garland as Blodgett; Frank Pierson's 1976 A Star is Born where Kris Kristofferson's John Norman Howard jumpstarts the career of Barbra Streisand's Esther Hoffman; and of course Bradley Cooper's spanking new version, with Cooper's Jackson Maine discovering Lady Gaga's Ally in a drag bar.

So which one's best? Well lemme tell you: