What Art/World/HW Films Have You Been Watching?

What Art/World/HW Films Have You Been Watching?

Eric Cotenas
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Joined: 01 Nov 2004, 08:26

27 May 2008, 08:25 #1

There's one for Eurocult, one for horror, and one for cult so I thought we might have somewhere to comment on films in this section that we don't feel like starting up a lengthy thread on.

Here's the first two:

POSSESSION - Dumbed down, slick, and sterile adaptation of A.S. Byatt's novel (I don't know if I can really blame them because I still haven't finished it after several years - I've got one of the thick paperbacks, not the subsequent sleek Vintage Library edition). Eckhart isn't very believable as an academic and Paltrow's accent is just annoying. The structure seems grafted onto the story rather than organic and its ridiculous how easily the protagonist discovers the pages from the letters in the book (how is it that no other scholars have consulted this book before and discovered two loose pages? how is it that the librarians hadn't discovered these pages before and catalogued them?).

AMATEUR - The only Hal Hartley film I've seen so far. Good turns from Martin Donovan as an amnesiac and Isabelle Huppert as an ex-nun/erotica writer (ah, independent film of the 90's when a combination like that was actually original rather than expected). Elina Lowensohn is monotonous but it works here and Damian Young seems like he's trying to do a John Malkovich. The rest of the cast have the kind of forced affectations you'd expect in an independent film. Despite having a documentary extra, the R1 disc is atrocious. Its barely letterboxed and non-anamorphic and the end credits have to be zoomed in to be readable and when you do zoom in, they become so fuzzy that it looks like an interlaced transfer to boot.
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Brian Camp
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Joined: 20 Oct 2004, 21:39

27 May 2008, 11:58 #2

EYES WIDE SHUT (1999)

Inspired by my recent reading of the “Stanley Kubrick Interviews,” I picked up a used DVD of EYES WIDE SHUT, Kubrick’s final film, which I’d never seen and which I just mentioned over in the Pollack thread. Earlier this month, I tried to watch it over four successive nights but kept falling asleep. Finally, one Saturday morning, I decided to start early and watch it from the beginning. I still fell asleep. I got up, took a walk, food-shopped, and came back and forced myself to finish watching it. At one point, I wanted to stop and get on with my life, but I saw that there was only 20 minutes left, five of those being end credits, which meant I’d already sat through 2 hours and 20 minutes so far, so I stuck it out. What a chore.

It’s got a very European sensibility. It might have worked as a German silent film set in Berlin in the 1920s, but not in a New York setting in 1999. I just didn’t buy any of it. And I didn’t see what the point was. And that orgy scene. In what alternate universe is there a mansion on Long Island that big and that ornate and that filled with dozens of hooded, masked people standing around, some having indiscriminate sex, most just watching?! Even if there is such a place, would they be doing it on a weeknight--during the Christmas season?! Gimme a break.

Most people I talked to afterwards who’d seen it shared my disdain for it. However, one film professor colleague praised it. He’s the one who likened it to silent German expressionistic cinema and even hailed it as “the lost sequel to Murnau’s SUNRISE.” Not that anyone was exactly demanding such a sequel.

Now there’s only one Kubrick film I haven’t seen, FEAR AND DESIRE, his very first feature.

By the way, I really liked reading the Kubrick interviews. He was a brilliant guy and had a lot to say that I found really interesting, not just about movies, especially in the interviews tied to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. One problem with the book: for some reason there's nothing on THE SHINING and there's no explanation why. There's also nothing on EYES WIDE SHUT, even though the book came out in 2001, two years after Kubrick's death. The editor says Kubrick did no interviews about it, but I remember reading one in The New Yorker sometime after his death and that piece should have been in the book.
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Eric Cotenas
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Joined: 01 Nov 2004, 08:26

27 May 2008, 12:36 #3

And that orgy scene. In what alternate universe is there a mansion on Long Island that big and that ornate and that filled with dozens of hooded, masked people standing around, some having indiscriminate sex, most just watching?! Even if there is such a place, would they be doing it on a weeknight--during the Christmas season?! Gimme a break.
I thought Pollack's explanation to Cruise of who the people were was a bit out of left field. Although I didn't enjoy it, I've been meaning to watch the film again after reading the Film Quarterly piece "Introducing Sociology."
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Victor Boston
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Joined: 30 Oct 2004, 19:40

27 May 2008, 13:49 #4

In what alternate universe is there a mansion on Long Island that big and that ornate and that filled with dozens of hooded, masked people standing around, some having indiscriminate sex, most just watching?! Even if there is such a place, would they be doing it on a weeknight--during the Christmas season?! Gimme a break.
I suppose it goes without saying that there aren't as many hooded people standing around watching in the majority of releases - they put them in for the American audience who frown on the idea of exhibitionism and intercourse in opulent settings - more of a European pastime, I suppose.

For the record, I like the film's dreamlike narrative and why wouldn't wealthy people wallow in such decadence when they are used to buying everything they want. Not so far removed from the less believable HOSTEL movies that juxtapose scenes of the protagonists buying flesh in a brothel at the story's outset before becoming flesh for sale in the 2nd act - hunters becoming the hunted.

Victor
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Alan Maxwell
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Joined: 04 Nov 2004, 22:11

27 May 2008, 18:29 #5

Aha, somewhere to dump my thoughts on all the documentaries and non-culty stuff. :)

Smart People (2008)
A comedy, I think. Thomas Hayden Church plays that guy from Sideways, Ellen Page plays Juno, Sarah Jessica Parker plays nothing in particular and Dennis Quaid spends the film being as miserable as I felt after forking out the money to see this. The cast all do their very best with what they're given, but what they're given is nothing at all. An attempt to do miserable-comedy-but-slightly-quirky, in the same way as the also-rubbish Running with Scissors. At least the latter film had Brian Cox.

Shotgun Stories (2007)
The death of a father sparks a feud between two sets of half-brothers. Violence ensues. That's pretty much all there is to it, but the acting is acceptable and it's shot beautifully. Worth a watch.

Night People (2005)
Halloween night, Edinburgh - five different people that all have until dawn to make decisions that will change their lives. While falling into some of the usual traps (it's a Scottish film so, sure enough, it involves junkies, homeless and broken families) but at the same time it deserves points for trying to be cinematic (much like Richard Jobson's cinematic efforts). While the characters are flawed, they're sympathetic and well-acted and the night-time photography captures, for once, Edinburgh at its most beautiful. A victory of sorts for low-budget Scottish filmmaking.

The Irishman (1978)
Australian period piece about an Irish immigrant and his family trying to carve out a living in the untamed wilds of turn of the century Australia. Somewhere in here there's a wonderful historical epic trying to burst out, but it never quite manages. The music is lovely and there's some stunning photography of the Australian locations but the balance between the characters is uneven, leaving some underdeveloped (the titular character, who looks a little like Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood) and others getting more time than they merit (his younger son, who spends the whole film looking like he's trying to hold his breath while having something shoved up his rear end). In the end it feels like watching several episodes of the daytime Australian soaps that I spent my youth avoiding. Bryan Brown pops up in a small role as a young man who thinks the future lies with these new-fangled motor cars.

The Naked City (1948)
Fantastic location shooting of New York, but otherwise just a fairly standard police procedural with not much excitement in the story department until a thrilling chase scene towards the end. It's no Rififi.
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Wade Sowers
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Joined: 19 Oct 2004, 00:29

29 May 2008, 17:18 #6

. . . some of the best films I have seen so far at the ongoing Seattle International Film Festival -

. . . STILL LIFE - another excellent film from Jia Zhang-ke (PLATFORM, THE WORLD) set in a town that is being partly deconstructed to make way for the hydroelectric dam project along the Three Gorges; the story parallels the lives of a man and a woman, each of whom is trying to find their partners in this city that is being torn down and flooded as they seek here and there - the movie is filled with images that are hard to shake and is a sad story of human, social, and cultural dislocation . . .

. . . CALIFORNIA DREAMIN' (ENDLESS) - a brilliant first and only movie by Romanian director Cristian Nemescu (he was killed in an auto crash shortly after completing this film) about a NATO train moving thru Romania on the way toward involvement in Serbia as that war was in full bloom . . . the train, full of U.S. Marines and some Romanian soldiers, is held up at a small town by a local railroad official who demands the proper papers be presented before he will let the train pass on (he has some issues with Americans, is a crook, and is involved in a power struggle with the mayor) . . . as the train sits on the track, the film's story expands to include the politics and personal lives of the local population, the buck-passing Romanian government, America's self-interested involvement in other nation's problems, some teenage romance, festivals, and a bit of surrealism - there is also, of course, quite a bit of that droll Romanian sense of humor, for example: Two guys are walking past a woman standing next to a car and one guys says, "Is that one yours?". The other fellow says, "Yes, we have been married for several years and have a couple of kids". The first fellow says, "I was talking about the car" . . . now, to me, that is very, very funny, but it might be even better in Romanian . . .

. . . ELITE SQUAD - director Jose Padiha's answer to CITY OF GOD as we follow the adventures of a special group of Brazilian police who seem to have unlimited license to go into the slums of Rio de Janeiro and kill just about anyone they wish in order to bring down the drug lords, and wear uniforms that reminded me of the SS . . . the running story is their attempt to quite things down during the visit of the Pope as it is his desire to pray at an important church in the center of the most dangerous part of town, as well as some personal problems being experienced by various members of the squad - the movie is quite exciting and, perhaps, quite fascist . . .

. . . IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY (1947) - revival screening of Robert (KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS) Hamer's unusual Ealing Studios dramatic movie - this is the story of an escaped criminal who hides out for one day in the house of a woman with whom he had an affair years ago - she is still in love with him, and tries to hide the fact he is there from her husband and children - this is only the top of the story as it becomes an Altmanesque portrait of London's East End and its population of workers, criminals, and police as they try to make a post-war living . . . this one is really excellent; since it is one of those Rialto releases, it will probably be screened here and there around the country in the coming months . . .
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Lon Huber
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Joined: 21 Oct 2004, 06:58

29 May 2008, 18:19 #7

Brian Camp @ May 27 2008, 05:58 AM wrote:EYES WIDE SHUT (1999)
...
It’s got a very European sensibility.
...
I just didn’t buy any of it. And I didn’t see what the point was. And that orgy scene. In what alternate universe is there a mansion on Long Island that big and that ornate and that filled with dozens of hooded, masked people standing around, some having indiscriminate sex, most just watching?!
I think of EYES WIDE SHUT as the most expensive Jesus Franco film ever made, and it would have held my interest much more fully had it actually been made by Jesus Franco. I like my Jesus Franco films sleazy, and Kubrick managed to make a Jesus Franco film which was entirely void of sleaze. In the same running time as EYES WIDE SHUT, one could watch a triple bill of DIABOLICAL DR. Z, EUGENIE: THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION, and VENUS IN FURS and come away just as baffled as to what it all meant, but much more entertained.

I have the same criticism of the ponderous and cold THE SHINING, a film which manages to remain bloodless even after filling an entire corridor with blood.
- Lon

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Eric Cotenas
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Joined: 01 Nov 2004, 08:26

29 May 2008, 22:35 #8

I mentioned this somewhere else but I would have liked to have seen what Tinto Brass might have done with EYES WIDE SHUT.
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JEFFREY ALLEN RYDELL
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Joined: 17 Oct 2004, 22:22

29 May 2008, 23:20 #9

Eric Cotenas @ May 29 2008, 06:35 PM wrote: I mentioned this somewhere else but I would have liked to have seen what Tinto Brass might have done with EYES WIDE SHUT.
Well, I know what he'd do with the title, for starters... :ph43r:
- Jeff
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Marshall Crist
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Joined: 31 Oct 2004, 06:44

30 May 2008, 00:42 #10

Just watched WAITRESS. Blech.
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Jeff McKay
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Joined: 20 Oct 2004, 16:41

30 May 2008, 02:13 #11

I watched HALF NELSON again a few nights ago. I liked it quite a lot the first time I saw it a while back, but it was even better the second time. Excellent low-key natural performances by Gosling and the young girl make it worthwhile just for that, and the non-emphasis on the usual big narrative plot-points was very refreshing. There was the shaky-cam hand-held throughout, which I normally don't care for, but in this instance I got over it (as I did in UNITED 93). Overall, it's quite a refreshing film for anyone burned out on these major Hollywood films masquerading themselves as independant 'important' films (such as "LAST KING OF SCOTLAND") - just my opinion, of course. Gosling lost the Oscar to Forest Whitaker playing Idi Amin that year which is understandable - Whitaker was excellent in that more extreme and memorable historical character performance and he proabably did deserve to win (especially after such a history of good acting behind him). Too bad LAST KING OF SCOTLAND was so banal overall and focused more on the James McAvoy doctor character (who is this actor, by the way? - I've never heard of him and he's terribly unconvincing here) instead of Amin. Yes, it's a powerful historical true story that should be made into a film, but I feel the somewhat campy "AMIN - THE RISE AND FALL" from the 80's had a lot more to say and more insight into Amin himself than this recent commercial 'critics favorite'.
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Bob Cashill
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Joined: 20 Oct 2004, 01:42

30 May 2008, 05:01 #12

McAvoy is a next big thing, in THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE and ATONEMENT, among other credits. His next big thing is the comics adaptation WANTED, due 6/27. Even bigger: Possibly playing Bilbo Baggins in THE HOBBIT. SCOTLAND is the least of writer Peter Morgan's credits, which include the much better THE QUEEN and LONGFORD.
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Lisa Larkin
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Joined: 04 Nov 2004, 10:11

30 May 2008, 05:51 #13

I like McAvoy a lot, though I haven't seen LAST KING OF SCOTLAND. I just watched STARTER FOR 10 the other night, a 1980s slice of life film in which he's quite good. See also the Channel 4 series, SHAMELESS, the MacBeth update in the SHAKESPEARE RE-TOLD series and INSIDE I'M DANCING [aka RORY O'SHEA WAS HERE]. He's also in STATE OF PLAY which I have not yet caught up with. And I hear he's quite charming in PENELOPE.

As for THE HOBBIT, I called that one when we were speculating on who should play Bilbo here a few weeks ago.
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William S. Wilson
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Joined: 17 Oct 2004, 20:18

30 May 2008, 15:44 #14

Glad to see this thread finally make it to this board!

WALL STREET (1987) - Somehow I got sucked into this last night. I saw it once before in 1987 when I was 13 (what was my mother thinking!?!) and I'm sure 70% of it flew over my head. Seeing it as an adult now and removed from the 80s, it is a very weird experience. It alternated from pretty good to laughable melodrama with no second thoughts. The same can be said for lead Charlie Sheen's performance. I should cut him some slack as he was only 22 and riding off the success of Oliver Stone's previous effort PLATOON. But Sheen (as in PLATOON) give a really bad performance at times with his over-the-top histrionics (if I open my eyes wide and tighten my lips, it means I am understanding something).

Michael Douglas is good as the evillllll and greeeeedy stock market whiz Gordon Gecko and the things I remember most from my 1987 viewing are bits with him. The thing I liked best this time around is the family dynamic between father and son with Stone capitalizing on the casting of Martin Sheen as Charlie's dad. There is an amazing supporting cast at work here though including John C. McGinley, Hal Holbrook, James Karen, and Terence Stamp.

I would have preferred it ending with Sheen being arrested as the good conquers evil scenario feels totally tacked on (Douglas and Sheen meet in a rainy Central Park?). Anyone know if that ending was re-shot? Also, the montage of Daryl Hannah's character decorating Sheen's new West Side pad in extremely gaudy 80s style is priceless. Twas the era of decadence I guess.
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Marty McKee
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Joined: 17 Oct 2004, 22:44

30 May 2008, 16:34 #15

Martin Sheen is pretty broad in WALL STREET too. I saw it theatrically too, and all I remember is Sheen screaming, "What you see is a guy who never measured a man's success by the size of his wallet!!!"
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William S. Wilson
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Joined: 17 Oct 2004, 20:18

30 May 2008, 16:38 #16

Marty McKee @ May 30 2008, 10:34 AM wrote: Martin Sheen is pretty broad in WALL STREET too. I saw it theatrically too, and all I remember is Sheen screaming, "What you see is a guy who never measured a man's success by the size of his wallet!!!"
To be fair, that is the only time he screams and he was just pretending he was Charlie. :)
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JEFFREY ALLEN RYDELL
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Joined: 17 Oct 2004, 22:22

30 May 2008, 17:14 #17

Broad performances in an Oliver Stone film? :ph43r:
- Jeff
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Michael Blanton
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Joined: 26 Oct 2004, 12:32

30 May 2008, 18:03 #18

MR. FREEDOM (1969) - Watched this William Klein film last night, a farce about US intervention throughout the world and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The film, with the imposing John Abbey - decked-out in over-the-top red, white and blue athletic gear including football shoulder pads, hockey gloves, motorcycle helmet, etc. - as Mr. Freedom, also has a great international cast, Delphine Seyrig, Donald Pleasance. Philippe Noiret, Samy Frey as well as Serge Gainsbourg.

The convoluted plot has Mr. Freedom traveling to France to save it from Communists, who have been sneaking in to France at the Swiss Border (Darn those neutral S(w)issies). When Mr. Freedom visits the US Embassy in Paris, it turns out to be a huge department store. The scene in which Mr. Freedom attempts to sell the Freedom Kit, combines the best (or worst) of evangelistic zeal and huckster capitalism, and plays on our basest consumer consumption longings. The simple-minded dialogue and plot is about as sophisticated - and hilarious - as some of our (U.S.) recent foreign policy decisions and actions.

Kudos to Donald Pleasance, whose excellent performance as Dr. Freedom is chilling and very Orwellian. Pleasance looks eerily like Dick Cheney in his two main scenes, and his insane instructions/incantations to Mr. Freedom sound like some rah!rah! double-speak pep rally speech that Cheney would give to pump up the true believers and to get the troops ready for battle.
"Don't ever tell anybody that they're not free, 'cause then they're gonna get real busy killin' and maimin' to prove to you that they are. Oh, yeah, they're gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom. But they see a free individual, it's gonna scare 'em."
George Hanson
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Alan Maxwell
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Joined: 04 Nov 2004, 22:11

30 May 2008, 18:17 #19

La Question Humaine [English title Heartbeat Detector] (2008)

Plot: a highflying H.R. man in a large pharmaceutical company is asked by his immediate boss to investigate the mental health of the CEO. Doublecrosses and sinister coverups await.

I read some positive reviews for this new French release so headed along to see it last night. It really didn't do it for me at all. It was a rather bleak and dull experience. The scenes that don't take place at night seem to take place in a world of perpetual grey. Maybe they were aiming for "sterile" - to me it just came across as drab. The music does its best to drown you in misery too.

On top of this, the performances and script combine to produce scene after scene of people talking to each other really slowly, or perhaps standing around doing not much. Scenes either seem irrelevant or just far too long, dragging on long after they've served whatever purpose they're supposed to have. At almost two and a half hours, it thoroughly outstays its welcome.

The most interesting thing about this film is the casting. For a French arthouse film, it's got a reasonable pedigree of cult-iness in its actors. For one thing, there's the opportunity to see future and former Bond villain face off against each other (Mathieu Amalric and Moonraker's Michael Lonsdale respectively). There are also small roles for spaghetti western star Lou Castel and the Eyes Without a Face herself, Edith Scob.

I also just watched the made-for-TV documentary Life After People (2008), which shows how the Earth may appear if humans were to suddenly disappear. Does exactly what it says, and reasonably entertaining too.
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James Cheney
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Joined: 20 Oct 2004, 02:43

31 May 2008, 08:49 #20

(I just posted this review on another board (European Film Forum's), but had this thread equally in mind when writing it)

Paolo Cavara's WILD EYE/L'Occhio Selvaggio (1967) is absolutely essential viewing for anyone deeply invested in the history of cult and art film...without being an absolutely essential film drama. Although Cavara effectively divorces his disquisition on jaded globetrotting cynical entertainments from MONDO tastelessness (while divorcing himself from partner-in-film-crime Jacopetti), elevated in part thanks to heavyweight screenwriter collaborators like Tonino Guerra and Alberto Moravia, he's ultimately stuck with the limitations and superficialities of the Mondo format he's deconstructing.

The real novelty here is Cavara's elegantly executed conceit: his pseudo-documentary staging of the making of a Mondo movie. Cavara answers the demands of exploitation-exposé and metafilmic meditation simultaneously. We get the 'people want to know' satisfaction of seeing how such Mondos get made by one who has made them: most fascinatingly, the revelation of how they're faked by cynical western fakers trying to fake out the fakirs into doing something truly hideous, but willing to settle for artful humiliation of their subjects, their audiences, themselves. Of more specialized scholarly interest, one receives a primer on what Cavara's own specialties and contributions to the first Mondo Cane movie must have been: a parodic, zany and absurdist touch chief among them. Among his 'tricks' well deployed here is the 'More'-like juxtaposition of zippy lounge music and incongrous imagery. Philippe Leroy and his pretty girlfriend (Delia Bocardo) 'frolic' among ancient tableaus of Asian atrocities to hilarious-chilling effect, for example. Likewise, one can see the same goofy almost poetic whimsy at work as in the 'lighter' moments of Mondo Cane, especially when an impoverished, starving eastern potentate is bribed into dancing around his palace grasping at thousands of butterflies, munching those he catches with a big smile, and then curling up satisfied to go 'nighty night'.

Hilarious...but also a bit hair-raising, as we've seen how this has been staged, and the individual manipulated, objectified, degraded to do so. Another scene involving the faked beating of opium-addicted emaciated folks taking a cure is much more unsettling. Although we're shown the whole array of filmic sleight of hand devices that give such scenes their impact (really loud foley sound coupled with shock-speed glimpses of addict-bodies and a hand raising and wielding a whip, and lots of appalled reaction shots -chiefly supplied by Leroy's lovely girl, exploited as wide eyed camera subject) there's the lingering question: how much of this was really faked? Those emaciated people really were what they're purported to be. Were they consulted? Was the man playing their 'doctor' 'really' an 'actor'? Did he maybe really beat them -just a little bit? Perhaps Cavara is really indulging in nastiness while pretending not to? Delia Bocardo may trick us into thinking she's seeing something truly hideous, but she herself, at least within the film, is being shocked by what she experiences...even though Philippe Leroy explains that he's been tricking her, saying Orson Welles-style, don't believe your eyes, it's all an illusion. It's quite possible that Leroy's director character is tricking himself, in turn, convinced that everything is a movie, even when it's not: Delia's eyes record that these movie-deal Mondo transactions have real, life-stealing consequences even when nobody is really hurt. The director within the film has chosen her as his girlfriend for the innocent eye she provides, easily led and fooled, his audience's
proxy, the human element who makes the shock and repulsion shocking and repulsive. The innocent reactions he records of one passing from the realm of kinky fantasy into one of life-and-death scenarios and the depths there one will sink to in order to stay alive may make for good cinema, but they may prove his undoing in the end, a finale when he may find himself shockingly exposed by the camera's savage eye.

That's the tenor of Cavara's examination of Mondo's sins, his own every bit as much as those of Jacopetti, the chief model for the protagonist. At Cavara's most effective, he stars in his own movie though physically absent. We become eerily aware of filmmakers filming filmmakers filming. In the closing scenes, we're truly entering the outskirts of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, no doubt about it. But throughout there's a subtler and fascinating metaphysical strain that matches up neatly with Antonioni's detached observational style very impressively. Nonetheless, Antonioni had real human subjects to toy with ('real' in the sense of being complex, conflicted characters), and Cavara has only Philippe Leroy's beyond-redemption burned out case. A valid comparison could be made between this film and Antonioni's THE PASSENGER/Professione: Reporter. They correspond thematically and stylistically at many levels, BUT Jack Nicholson's frustrated globetrotter in search of a story starts out in terminal despair and tries to transcend himself whereas Leroy (very effective soldier of fortune performance) only degrades himself further and further, reaching a glimmering of humanity at the point that it's too late.

Thus not too edifying, and ultimately an artful mondo about mondos, but well worth a look.
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