Monday, October 31, 2016

An early look at Patrick Meaney's TRIP HOUSE (now re-titled HOSE OF DEMONS)

(NOTE: TRIP HOUSE has been re-titled HOUSE OF DEMONS for its February 2018 release)

At the end of last week I got an email from director Patrick Meaney who was the mad genius behind one of the best films of the year NEIL GAIMAN DREAM DANGEROUSLY. He said he had just finished his latest film, a thriller and asked would I like to see it?

"Yes"I replied and the rest is history. 

What follows is a far from spoilery review for Mr Meaney's cinematic confection. I don't know if you need to know any more than that  other than  the film is going to be showing up in a theater near you soon and you'll want to have money aside so you too can buy a ticket and take a ride. It is that rarest of films, a great one that get better the more it's pondered. 

Thank you to Patrick Meaney for letting me see TRIP HOUSE and for supplying the poster art and stills.

Patrick Meaney's film TRIP HOUSE is a gem. Destined to be called a horror film because that is the easiest thing to call it, it is in fact something more than that. It simply transcends genres and easy description.  I suspect that if the film finds the right audience it will end up a touchstone film for many people for years to come.

Possessing elements of not only horror but fantasy, science fiction and thrillers as well TRIP HOUSE is in fact best described as a Vertigo comic book melded on to a 1970's drive-in movie.  I think the best way to describe it for people who know comics and films is imagine if  Grant Morrison decided to make a film version of  Steven T Seagle's House of Mystery in a style that approximated 1970's drive in films where there is a secluded house some where. (I'm thinking something with the feel of THE EVIL or EQUINOX or WE ARE STILL HERE) If that happened you'd end up with an exploitation style film with very high literary aspirations which is what you have with TRIP HOUSE.

Because the film is hasn't been released I don't want to say much about the plot other than a group of friends go to a house to crash the night before a mutual friend gets married. The past is recalled as the friends talk about their time apart. Things of course happen as there are other forces at work.And if you think you have any idea where this is going you are wrong. Where it goes and how it goes is nowhere near what you'd expect.

I'm not sure where to begin taking about the film. Should I mention the cast which is pretty much great across the board? Every one here is excellent and believable. Other than one awkward performance in a flash back everyone is spot on. These are well rounded characters created by actors who do more than just give line readings to the dialog. There is a physicality to them that makes them more than typical "horror" film characters.

Should I mention the technical achievements which create more than your typical amounts of tension? So much to say about the editing, music, camera works and everything that goes into a film that I'm not sure where to start...worse because of the construction of the film it's hard to really discuss sequences since to do so will give spoilers. I don't want to do that. I will say that the opening two minutes before the credits got my attention and I sat bolt up right just as the title popped on screen.  All I could ponder was wonder what the hell I had gotten myself into since the sequence makes clear that the technical crew have made a very tactile, very visceral film that gets inside you and makes stare at the screen.

Should I talk about the script which uses horror movie tropes and turns them upside down to create what amounts to drama about the the past? While it's clear Patrick Meany is working in the fields harvested by people like Neil Gaiman and especially the aforementioned Grant Morrison, he has marked out a little piece of property of his own. Meaney has taken what he has earned from the master storytellers he's profiled and in a way, uses it against the audience. We expect the story to go a certain, the film is throwing up various tropes left and right, but it isn't  using them the way we expected.

The most obvious way to see that is that Meaney has structured the story like a horror film, but it's not, there is something greater going on. The best example is if you compare what it is to Neil Gaiman's Sandman. Nominally Sandman is a fantasy comic, but the reality is it's ultimately simply a drama about people that uses the fantasy elements to accentuate the discussion of the human issues, which in Sandman would depend on the story arc. Here its about how we deal with our friends and our shared pasts. Are we chained to the past or are we going to move forward unencumbered? Can we even move forward? More importantly is hat we remember correct?

And at the same time TRIP HOUSE reaches into your belly and twists up your insides as things happen that don't bode well for anyone...because despite my insistence that it isn't, the film is very much a horror film, or if not straight on horror, a fantastical thriller.

You will forgive me I so want to write about the film but I don't feel it's fair because this is the sort of film you need to discover on it's own. If I knew when the film was going to be out for you to experience I would say more, but I don't want to dangle the film's delights until I know when you'll be able to experience them for yourself.

And I need to really ponder the film, perhaps see it a second time or two, since the film shifted before me as one thing that's promised in the first two minutes before the title to something else after the title to something else once things begin to happen. I was never on solid footing and I was never certain where it was going. That's a good thing,  since it kept me interested and wanting to know how it was all going to play out.

I have to say that this is the best sort of film - one that sticks with you and makes you think about it, not in a "that was good" or "that was scary" sort of way but rather 'I need to think about what the film was doing and trying to say" way. TRIP HOUSE is a film that I and hopefully you too will be pondering for a long time to come.

This film is highly recommend.  A beautiful marriage of genre and literary ideas this is a film that will delight anyone who wants more than hack and slash or blood and guts in their "horror" films.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Nightcap 10/30/16 Not allowing full reviews, straight on to DOC NYC and links

This piece was written  a couple of days ago when I was very frustrated about a weird split I'm running into where I'm kind of asked to review films...and kind of not. You'll see what 'm talking about when you read it. However since I wrote the piece I had the reasoning explained in part. 

Despite the explanation I am still frustrated. I still don't like it, I understand it but I don't like it. To that end I'm giving you the original piece plus a new bit with the reasoning I was told behind it and commentary. (Thank you NLM)

I am increasingly meeting a weird phenomenon in regard to film festival coverage, the request for no reviews or if not no reviews only capsules. Yes filmmakers and their PR people are asking the press corps not to review their films. I’m kind of at a loss to explain it. But there you go.

In years past PR people would ask that any world premieres be held until after the film first played which is fair but I’m increasing running into weird shifts of festival coverage requests. Several festivals don’t want any coverage until the film has played there, even if it played esewhere. I’m fine with either but occasionally things go real weird, I recently had a festival in California offer me their entire slate of films and asked that I do a curtain raiser but in no way review any of the films. I went one better and did not mention either the festival or any of the films.

This new thing about "capsules only" kind of has me stymied. I thought the point of screening the films at a festival was to get coverage. Asking me to spend an hour and a half to two hours watching a film and then write a line or two is counterproductive. Why would I spend time watching your film but then not be able to talk about it when I could see and write on something else? There are exceptions - I recently saw 3 films for an upcoming festival that all would have gotten very long loving reviews that are getting a couple of lines each instead.  I would not have bothered except I really wanted to see the films so it was a trade off.

The troubling thing with this trend is that more often than not the people who are insisting on capsules or mentions only are the same ones who ask in six months for me to do a full review when the film is released.

“Please give my film coverage” they plead.

“I will rerun the capsule” I answer.

“Could you please do something longer?” they ask.

“I can’t”, I reply, “I don’t remember your film well enough”

“I’ll send you a screener”

“I don’t have the time”

I could understand it if the movie is a dog, which most of the films asking for capsules are most definitely not. I could understand it if they were works in progress because the films aren’t done, but more times than not the films have played elsewhere and are going to play elsewhere.

My mind boggles.

The trouble here is entirely that I’m going the press route. I’m shackled because I’m getting a press screener or going to a press screening. If I went to the public screening I am completely free to say what I want for as long as I want. If I break the rules set by either the festival or the film’s PR people I run the risk of getting black balled, something that doesn’t affect anyone walking in off the street. As much as I would love not to have to rely on the press route it’s just not possible since most festivals have multiple films screening at the same time. We are few at Unseen and can’t do it.

Nowhere has this been as big a problem as with BAMcinema Fest. I didn't cover the fest this year because of problems last year. Last year, and in previous years, they did not want anything more than capsules with full reviews to be held until the theatrical release. When I appealed to the studios I was told the same thing, ”hold until theatrical release”. That was fine for some films but for THE INVITATION I had to hold the review for almost a year…

…and here’s the rub with that, not only had the film played at numerous festivals before, it played in an endless string of festivals for the next year. But because I saw the film at BAM I couldn’t review it- despite everyone at all the other festivals being able to. Tons of reviews appeared for the film- however I had to sit one mine. Of course I could have just published it and been done with it, but I’m not that sort of a guy- I agreed to hold the review and I did.

I really hate this. I’m supposed to be helping get word out on a film and yet the PR people are preventing that. There is no consistency. Things go from Patrick Meaney letting me be the first person to see his great film DREAM DANGEROUSLY and write on it as soon as it’s done to situations like THE INVITATION where I’m bound not to say a word for a year. Do you want me to spread the word on your film and put butts in seats at festivals or not?

Addendum- or Welcome to Catch 22

At the end of the week I spoke with a friend who said that reason there requests for only capsule is that the PR people for some films are asking for it. Because HBO and some platforms don't want reviews until the films run on HBO or whatever the PR people are advising against getting reviews so they can sell the film.

Of course this creates a problem for festivals who need to put butts in seats... 

...and it can be a problem for the films themselves which may not get noticed if no one speaks on their behalf. Its a gamble and can be a kind of  Catch 22 - we need reviews to get noticed but if we have reviews we may not noticed and therefore  get bought,  but with reviews we won't get bought so we can't have reviews but without the reviews we won't get noticed or bought we need the reviews...but....

I completely understand why the capsules are the compromise but in all honesty its a kind of crap shoot - I mean what if the film doesn't sell and it potentially limits the chance of a review when (if) the film gets released later on. Personally I always question capsules since they tend not to say enough about a film.

I understand it but I still don't like it, though I'm slightly more accepting.

And for the record I was told to hold the review of THE INVITATION by Draft House Films. I've also been asked to sit on reviews by several big companies recently and not run reviews despite the films playing festivals like Toronto and despite my telling them I would re run the review..

 I’ve got my head down and I’m heading straight on toward DOC NYC. There are about 200 hundred films screening and while we are not going to be close to the 150 films we did last year I’m looking to bang out a good number of them thanks to Ariela, Nate Hood, and anyone else I can grab and set to writing.

The long range forecast is that pretty much all we’ve seen is, as always, recommended.

Keep an eye on this space because there are a lot of docs coming.
I should mention that next week there are three festivals happening. Ithaca Fantastik, Gold Coast and DOC NYC are all up against each other. I’ll have curtain raisers for all of them with links to the films we’ve previously covered.
And now some links from Randi and John

The worst movie theater ever is no more
A Touring Pixar Exhibit
The most dangerous prosecutor in New York
Lena Hall as Hedwig
One guy seems to be solving the Flight 370 Mystery
A 1974 story on Christine Chubbuck the subject of 2 recent films
NYC most beautiful libraries
The Train that carries the dead
Haunted theaters
Bill Bailey talks

The must see Circle of Poison is released November 2

This film blew me away when I saw it last year at DOC NYC. Now it's going to be available to everyone I'm reposting the review here: 

When David Weir was in Afghanistan with his wife he discovered that some of the food he was getting from the American embassy contained ingredients that had been banned in the United States. As he investigated why he discovered that US companies not only were allowed but encouraged to send their banned products over seas in a kind of compensation for not being able to sell them at home. The trouble is that there is a kind of natural blowback as things like pesticides and similar substances are coming into the country via the wind and the products we import.

Eye opening documentary that reinforces the point that we can't give away dangerous things to other countries because it comes back to haunt us. We see through very clear and chilling examples how This process is upsetting the natural balance -poisons in India are not only the predators, but also the live stock and the chemicals used in farming in Mexico are laying waste to land on the US side of the border. Its chilling to think how we are poisoning ourselves and we don't even know it.

While audience members who are environmentally aware may know some of this there is enough visual information and enough driving home of the point to make this film a must see.

CIRCLE OF POISON is released on DVD VOD on November 2

Saturday, October 29, 2016

In Brief: Dead Shadows (2012)

Weird French horror film has people mutating as the result of the arrival of the comet. Our hero tries to escape his apartment building without having something horrible happen to him.

If you like your horror of the creepy WTF variety this film is for you. Various levels of nasty and strange monsters roam through the second half of this film making it a real trip. I went from thinking it was okay to making sure the DVD didn't get put into the give away pile.

Definitely worth seeing.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Inde Memphis Film Festival starts Tuesday November 1

 A huge apology to the Inde Memphis Film Festival I was hoping to wade into you cinematic goodness but life kind of got in the way.

My dental issues aside there is no reason why you can't go. I know there isn't and I know that you, yes you who are reading this, I know you're clear I hacked you smart phone and I saw your schedule and I sent an email to your boss so feel free to go to Memphis and see something.

Actually see a lot of things. Go see CAMERAPERSON, TICKLED, CHICKEN PEOPLE, I'M NOT YOUR NEGRO, LOVE WITCH, LION or any of the other films that I really really want to see but can't get to.

Guys this program is killer- trust me I've covered over 50 festivals this year I know when I great festival is in front of me. This is one of the really good festivals without a huge name. Its a got a great mix of local stuff, big name films and some awesome smaller films

You have to go. I would but I need to take care of a rogue tooth.

If you need some direction here's a list of the films we've already reviewed:

PATERSON one of the best of 2016
TOWER one of the best of 2016
MEMORIES OF A PENITENT HEART one of the best of 2016

Look at the schedule, buy some tickets and just go. You'll thank me later.

For more information on the festival and tickets go here.

Ice Guardians (2016)

A look at the role of the "enforcer" in professional hockey. The enforcer is the guy whose job it is to fight and to scare the other other team in submission. However with a change in the rules and a move away from fighting the position has been put on the endangered list.

The joke was always I went to  boxing match and a hockey game broke out. Back in the bad old days fighting was a big part of the game with many nights coming to a close with the ice stained red with blood and littered with teeth. I grew up during that time and I while never watched a hockey game with the intention of seeing a fight I did enjoy them when they happened.

Living in a house where my brother  and my dad played hockey I appreciated the role of the enforcer. I liked that someone was going to keep my family safe from the goons on the other side. While admittedly fights in their leagues were few and far between, there were times when they did happen usually they came when someone did something stupid, like laying out my brother in the goal. On the next drop of the puck the offender was taken care of by enforcer.

Understanding the role of enforcer and the game of hockey made seeing ICE GUARDIANS a kind of look back into old time hockey, or at least old time as far as I am concerned. The film beautifully explains the position, who the men who take are/were and how they are now fading away as a drive for more safety takes the lead. The film talks to many of the guys who carried the title enforcer and it really gives one a real sense of what it all was about.

I liked the film, but I'm not sure how the film is going to play for a person who isn't a hockey fan. Running almost two hours the film is probably twenty minutes too long giving a bit too much information for the non-fan. On the other hand if you are a hockey fan this is a must. Its rare that we get to see any sort of hockey film, much less a documentary get an honest to goodness theatrical release so the thought of seeing hockey on a big screen is just too much to pass up.

ICE GUARDIANS will be playing in theaters New York and Denver today and then moves onto L.A, Philly, Detroit, St. Louis, Washington, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Boston in November.


Patrick Doyle
The festival to take place November 7th – 13th, 2016-10-23

Braunschweig, German, Oct 27th, 2016 –
Composer Patrick Doyle is the recipient of the Braunschweig International Film Festival’s White Lion Award. In its anniversary year, the festival is awarding this newly created award for the lifetime achievement of a significant contemporary film composer.

In honour of the Scottish composer, the festival is also screening eight of his films, ranging from 1989 to 2015 as part of a Retrospective Series in “Music and Film”.

Furthermore, Doyle will be presenting the German premier performance of his live silent film score “It”. Released in 1927, this romantic comedy from directors Clarence Badger and Josef von Sternberg not only made the leading actress, Clara Bow, into an international film star more famous than Greta Garbo, it also coined the phrase “It-girl” – girls who have a certain something. The screening will take place on November 10th at 9:00 pm in the Schloss Arkaden, Braunschweig. The Braunschweig Staatsorchester will be performing under the musical leadership of the English conductor James Shearman.

Patrick Doyle is a classically-trained composer. He graduated from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music in 1975 and was made a fellow in 2001. His first film assignment was the adaption of Shakespeare's “Henry V” directed by Sir Kenneth Branagh. Since then, they have worked together on numerous Shakespeare films, including “Much Ado About Nothing”, “Hamlet” and “As You Like It”. He will be collaborating once more with Kenneth Branagh during the summer of 2017 on the up-coming feature “Murder On The Orient Express”.

Patrick Doyle was twice nominated for an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a César award for Best Film Music. He was also honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award from PRS, ASCAP, the World Soundtrack Awards and the ASCAP Henry Mancini Award. Patrick has composed the music for over 50 international films, including “Thor” (2014), “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire“ (2005), “Bridget Jones's Diary“ (2001) and “Donnie Brasco“ (1997).

The Braunschweig Film Festival will show eight of his films: the animation film “Brave“ (2012), the Mafia film “Carlito‘s Way“ with Al Pacino (1993), some of his collaborations with Kenneth Branagh “Henry V“ (1989), “Much Ado About Nothing“ (1993) and Disney's “Cinderella“ (2015), the science-fiction film “Rise of the Planet of the Apes“ (2011) and Emma Thompson’s Academy Award winning adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility“ (1995).

On Saturday, November 12, the festival presents Patrick Doyle in a film discussion with his composer colleague, Oscar-nominee Gary Yershon. Yershon writes music for theatres around the world, as well as for radio, television and film and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Film Music in 2015 for his score for “Mr. Turner“.

Film Concert
“It “ on November 10 at 21.00 Uhr
Director: Clarence G. Badger, 1927, 72 Min.
Music: Patrick Doyle

The Retrospective Films:

Brave, Dir: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapmann, USA 2012, 93 Min.
A fairytale about the fierce Princess Merida who determines her own destiny. Patrick Doyle goes back to his Scottish roots and brings the Highland Princess's wildness to life through his music.

Carlito‘s Way, Dir: Brian De Palma, USA 1993, 144 Min.
Ex-Mafiosi Carlo Brigante is released from prison early after only serving five years of his sentence and chases after the dream of a decent life. However, his instincts catch up with him and make him permanently into the hunted.

Cinderella, Dir: Kenneth Branagh, USA 2015, 105 Min.
"Right from the outset, Doyle envelops the listener in a world of fairytale magic and wonder" ( A fairytale about a loving protagonist, who masters her destiny with bravery and kindness.

Indochine, Dir: Régis Wargnier, FR 1992, 159 Min.
Indochina 1930, French colonial rule is ending. A widowed French woman raises a Vietnamese princess as if she was her own daughter. She and her daughter both fall in love with a young French officer. Oscar awarded romantic drama with Doyle score.

Henry V, Dir: Kenneth Branagh, UK 1989, 137 Min.
In 1415, the young King Henry V goes to France with his invasion army. He has to confront the superior enemy at Agincourt. Patrick Doyle's music and Kenneth Branagh's directing allows us to experience Shakespeare's play anew.

Much Ado About Nothing, Dir: Kenneth Branagh, UK/USA 1993, 111 Min.
Hero and Claudio's marriage is planned. However, the union of Benedick and Beatrice, who can't stand each other at all, is part of their happiness. Everything could turn out well if Don John did not have different plans.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dir: Rupert Wyatt, USA 2011, 105 Min.
A substance, designed to help the brain repair itself, gives rise to a super-intelligent chimp who leads an ape uprising. “A dense, intelligent genre film” with a magnificent score by Patrick Doyle.

Sense and Sensibility, Dir: Ang Lee, UK/USA 1995, 136 Min.
Made destitute by their father's death, the Dashwood sisters try their luck with love. A work of social criticism disguised as romantic comedy. With a star-studded cast, Lee, Thompson, Doyle and Austen have created a masterpiece of feel-good cinema.

For showtimes:

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Crazed (2016) is crazed

Get your friends, get some beers and get CRAZED a completely over the top, "I can't believe I'm seeing this" movie.

The plot of the film has a cop named Ronan Pierce going after the Luna Cartel and it's leader who killed his daughter and kidnapped his wife. The cartel kidnaps women and takes their organs for transplant. Pierce is a a weird ass mix Punisher and Batman mixed with the witty remarks of Dirty Harry. Pierce wants the top man and he is not going to stop killing everyone and everything in his way until he gets revenge and his wife back.

Violent, brutal, and at times very funny CRAZED has an absolute sense of fun going for it. Its clear that everyone connected to the film loves what they are doing and are on the same wavelength. They are going to entertain us never mind if the budget was small or the script makes no sense. The investment in the characters by the actors carries over and makes the film something just a great deal of fun to watch.

How good is it? After I started it I was like- oh hell I should have been watching this with my dad and brother.

I really like this film in a pure B movie exploitation sort of a way. It ain't high art, hell I'm not even sure it's a good film, but god damn is it entertaining.

I see a great many low budget action films every year. Most you never hear about because most I never finish. Many low budget directors think they know what they are doing when they don't. Here director Kevin McCarthy  takes what he has to work with and turns it into something worth your time and money. CRAZED is exactly that and we are so much better for it.

Highly recommended for those who want crazy action and don't mind a low budget

Currently on digital down load CRAZED hits DVD on 11/8

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

In Brief: Vampyres (2015)

Remake of the 1974 lesbian vampire movie has more sex and more blood than the original. Where the original film had a couple coming upon the pair of vampires living in a castle, here a trio of campers and an older gentleman come upon them and complicate matters.

Reasonably okay horror film works best in the sex and violence scenes where a real poetic sense seems to take over the proceedings. The rest of the film is a mixed bag with some uneven performances, some fair camera work, and too much talk. It must be stated that I am not really a fan of the original film, so I find it surprising I kind of like this film better. I suspect its because what we get beyond the blood and boobs is slightly more interesting. It also doesn't hurt that Caroline Munro has a role in the film as well.

Worth a shot for adults who don't mind low budget retreads.

Currently on DVD and VOD from Artsploitation

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tales Of Poe (2014)

Scream queens Adrienne King , Caroline Williams , Amy Steel, Debbie Rochon and Lesleh Donaldson team up in a trilogy of films all based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe and recast to put women at the center of the terror. Its a very clever updating of the tales that more or less works all the way through

Chapter 1- Tell Tale Heart
The story is reset in the psyche ward of a hospital where a nurse recounts what happened while she was taking care of her patient, a silent movie star with a weird eye.

Chapter 2- The Cask
On the wedding day of a wine aficionado weird things happen

Chapter 3- Dreams
A bedridden woman dreams

While not without problems, TALES OF POE is that rare horror anthology that actually keeps our attention. Its use of female protagonists and the expansion of the stories in the first two films work wonders. The films generate their own visceral sense of horror beyond the chills of the Poe stories. For example in Tell Tale having a back story to the relationship makes what follows understandable. Additionally setting it in an asylum allows for additional shocks.

The only real problems with the film creep in during the final section. The dream like Dreams is under cut by the occasional use of sheets or clothes as back drops in several sequences. They clash with the opulence of the rest of the piece. It looks like the wrong set of cheap and completely wrecks the mood. And with Dreams mood is everything because the piece is a largely wordless dream and the visuals have to carry the film. The sheets undercut that. The other problem with this section is that it is the longest of the three stories running almost 45 minutes, its a couple minutes too long. As interesting as the visual poetry is there is a point where interest begins to sputter

I really like the film a great deal. As a horror fan I am always pleased when I stumble on a good horror film, especially when its in a sub-genre like the anthology which is littered with clunkers and missed opportunities.

With Halloween less than a week away TALES OF POE is recommended for anyone wanting to go outside of the box and see a horror film that isn't filled with your typical and well established screen villains. It is actually the perfect film to have the classic tales turned on their head.

TALES OF POE is currently out on VOD and DVD from Wild Eye releasing

Monday, October 24, 2016

Crosscurrent (2016)

Cinematic love poem to thethe Yangtze river and to China itself CROSSCURRENT is a film that must be seen and seen on the big screen.

The film follows a sailor traveling up the river from where it spills out to where it begins.  Along the way he continually encounters women (or is it just one woman) all named An Lu who all look the same but are all slightly different.

Yang Chao had been working on the film for ten years before finally completing it. This is a film where it is all image. Very little is said and much of that has a mystical bend to it. The story is driven by the images and by the performances of the actors who manage say volumes more than any of the words could. This is a film where the actors act, not just recite words but actually act, whole bodied to create their characters. Its something that may annoy some people who don't want to have to pay strict attention to what is going on, but for those of us who liked to be drawn into a film by more than words it's a godsend. This is what great acting should be- an entire body performing.

As much as one says a film is the work of a director, here the the work of the cinematographer is just as much an author. Mark Lee Ping-Bing DOP on Wong Kar-wai’s IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE won an award in Berlin for his cinematography for CROSSCURRENT and it would be a hard choice to argue since when the film done it is the images that will hang with you. In Ping-Bing's hands the entire world is a character. We are not just traveling up a river but exploring the hidden psyche of the landscape. We feel it shift and change and become a living person as we travel through and upon it. Rarely has the imagery in a film been so vital to a story. If you had someone else shoot the film, or if you changed any of the images the entire film would be radically different or would collapse completely. I can not imagine  this film looking any other way.

I loved the film, however if you want action and explanation you are going to have a tough time. This is a film that requires the viewer to engage with it 100%. You have to give yourself over to it and let it direct you. You can't be passive rather you have to be active. You literally have to buy a ticket and take the ride up the river. If you can't handle a mystical travelogue stay away. It is a film that is going to be best viewed on the big screen in a theater where you are going have few distractions. I'm not going lie and say it will be rapturous from start to finish, it's not but the weight of the images and the mysticism will, I think move you.

Strongly recommended for anyone wanting to go up river and willing to let a film do what it is going to do. (This truly is an art film)

CROSSCURRENT opens Fridays in select theaters
Filmmaker Yang Chao in Person will be making appearances with the film
10/28 in New York at the Regal E-Walk Stadium 13 & RPX
11/4 in Toronto at Cineplex Cinemas Markham and VIP Vancouver: Cineplex Silver City Riverport
11/18 in Los Angeles at the Regal Edwards University Town Center and Regal Edwards Alhambra Renaissance Stadium

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Nightcap 10/23/16 Can we review film where we are not part of the group?, more films at the Japan Society, Tall Grass Film Festival Winners, LaCosta Film Festival winners and Randi's Links

Good friend Nate Hood reviewed Shin Godzilla earlier this week and he liked it. Several hours after posting his review he tweeted that someone had told him that he shouldn’t be reviewing the film because he was an American. We joked about how this meant that from now on we can’t review or watch films not produced in America. Then we all went on our way...

And then I got into a discussion about Ava DuVernay’s 13th with an acquaintance who is also a film writer. They had liked the film but didn’t love it. However they were not going to review the film because they didn’t want to get into any sort of heated argument over the film. They were afraid that someone would take their criticism of the film as being racist. I had a similar feeling and while I did review the film, I slightly mitigated my words so as not cause them to be used to infer something that wasn’t true.

Pondering the discussions as well as incidents this year where I’ve been told I’m the wrong gender, wrong color or wrong whatever, I’m forced to ask if we have reached a point where we can’t have truly review films any more. Have we reached a point where who we are instantly disqualifies us from reviewing a film that doesn’t fit our set of labels concerning gender, race and religious belief?

I don’t think we have even though many people stuck in various social media ghettos think we have.

For me it’s ludicrous for anyone to expect a film, or a novel or a piece of music that is out in the world is only going to speak to one group or should be only commented on by similar groups as those who created it. Any artistic work may speak to a certain group more than others but any work of art transcends that group and speaks universally. The just released Moonlight is nominally the story of a young man of color who comes to terms with being gay. However the film transcends that narrow subject to be something greater speaking to everyone about the human desire to come to terms with who we are and it explores how we approach the thing we want most in the world. To be certain that had I been a gay black man it would have resonated more, but just being a hetero white guy it still spoke volumes to me. There is something universal about the emotion

There is no doubt that having connection to a subject will change how we see a film but at the same time that doesn’t mean we can’t comment on a film. Films should speak to us as humans not as members of a subgroup. My commenting on a film that doesn’t not mirror my background simply is a reflection of how universal something is. If it speaks to me or someone who isn’t part of a group means that the tale told is something larger than its subject. It makes it a greater work of art.

At the same time while I comment on a film I have to be aware of my disconnections. I have to be willing to say that the film didn’t work for me because, say as I man I couldn’t connect to a woman’s plight. Equally needing note would be to say that the life in a cave in Kazakhstan may have had no resonances for me living just outside NYC. I also can’t dismiss something because I disagree with its point of view unless I am willing to discuss why.

In truth if anyone puts something out for the world to see they must be willing to take criticism. That’s something I’ve had to deal with doing Unseen where people have told me some terrible things. Sometimes they were earned, but most times they have not. In each case I’ve bucked up and accepted it.

At the same time those who love something or are part of a group need to understand that they can’t protect a work of art or put conditions on whether I like something or not. Back when Ava DuVernay’s Selma was released many people I know caught flack for not raving about the film. They were sent emails saying they were racist or couldn’t understand because they weren’t black. Never mind that their objections were based on the altering of history or artistic choices, they were labeled as something they we not. The blow back of that was why my friend didn’t want to review 13th.

As a writer I can’t let fear of being told that I am not allowed to review something to stop me from saying my piece. If a work of art is out in public then I am allowed to comment. If no one wants a comment they shouldn’t be putting it out there. I am never not going to review something because I’m potentially going to get beaten up for it. I’m going to review films from every sort of filmmaker from all over the globe.

If you don’t like what I say about something feel free to comment on it. And do realize that if you are afraid that what I say matters enough to destroy something you really over estimate my power. Additionally if you are afraid of what I, or my fellow writers, feel about a film take comfort in knowing that in the end that what we say will mean nothing in five years’ time when that which you love will either have sunk to be forgotten or will have transcended our mere words to be considered a classic.
Earlier this week I ran a piece on the Japan Society POP GOES CINEMA  series. However there is more going on November and December:

Monthly Classics: Kikujiro (Kikujiro no Natsu)
Friday, November 4 at 7 PM
1999, 121 min., 35mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Takeshi Kitano. With Takeshi Kitano (as Beat Takeshi), Yusuke Sekiguchi, Kayoko Kishimoto, Kazuko Yoshiyuki.
A conscious attempt to steer away from the hardboiled yakuza films that established his international reputation, Takeshi Kitano’s picaresque road film displays the filmmaker’s unique brand of sentimentality and his exceptional gift for deadpan comedy. Featuring a memorable score by renowned composer Joe Hisaishi. Co-presented with Japan Foundation. Tickets: $13/$11 seniors and students/$5 Japan Society members.

Monthly Classics: The Only Son (Hitori Musuko)
Friday, December 2 at 7 PM
1936, 87 min., 35mm, b&w, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yasujiro Ozu. With Choko Iida, Shinichi Himori, Masao Hayama, Yoshiko Tsubouchi, Chishu Ryu.
Yasujiro Ozu’s first foray into talkies provides a blueprint for the widely-celebrated masterpieces that followed. Touching upon the universal themes of family, love and disappointment for which Ozu is celebrated, The Only Son is a wonderful entry point to the master director’s unique cinematic world. Ozu was born December 12, 1903 and died on the same day 60 years later. Tickets: $13/$11 seniors and students/$5 Japan Society members.

For tickets and more information go to the Japan Society Webpage

Congratulations to the 2016 Tallgrass Film Festival Award Winners!

Golden Garbanzo for Wichita's Best Hummus: Bella Luna Cafe

Venus Award for the Teddie Barlow Outstanding Female Filmmaker: Anne Fontaine of Les Innocentes
Student Films

Best Emerging Student - Award (Documentary): The Puppet Lady, directed by Kate Gondwe
Best Emerging Student Award (Narrative): Two Far Gone, directed by Andrew Kevitt
Kansas Films

Best Kansas Short Film Award (Documentary): Ace - The Gas Station Cowboy, directed by Evan Senn, Ken Pugh
Best Kansas Short Film Award (Narrative): Off Track Betty, directed by Clayton Dean Smith of Shawnee Mission, KS
Golden Strands Programming Awards

Outstanding Rising Star Recipient, Alex Shaffer Delinquent
Outstanding Male Actor: Chen Gang, Old Stone
Outstanding Female Actor: Lucy Walters, Here Alone
Outstanding Ensemble Cast: Bender, directed by John Alexander
Outstanding Cinematography: Diverge, directed by James Morrison
Excellence in the Art of Filmmaking: Driftwood, directed by Paul Taylor
Outstanding Courage in Filmmaking: Jackson, directed by Maisie Crow
Outstanding First Feature: Creedmoria, directed by Alicia Slimmer
Outstanding Animated Film: TOWER - Documentary directed by Keith Maitland
Outstanding Documentary Short Film: The Radical Jew, directed by Noam Osband
Outstanding Narrative Short Film: AVO, directed by Golnaz Jamsheed
Outstanding Documentary Feature: Santoalla, directed by Andrew Becker and Daniel Mehrer
Outstanding Narrative Feature: The Brand New Testament, directed by Jaco Van Dormael
Vimeo Audience Awards

Audience Award Winning Short, $1,000, Time Simply Passes, directed by Ty Flowers
Audience Award for Award Winning Feature Documentary, $2,500 Walk With Me: The Trials of Damon J. Keith, directed by Jesse Nesser
Audience Award for Award Winning Feature Narrative, $2,500 Service To Man directed by Seth Panitch & Aaron Greer.


Best of the Festival:
Director: Nathan Apffel

Best Documentary Feature Film:
Director: Nathan Apffel

Best Narrative Feature Film (Domestic):
Director: Bo Brinkman

Best Narrative Feature Film (Foreign):
Director: Olivier Ringer

Best Sports Documentary:
Director: Eric 'Ptah' Herbert

Best of the Festival – Short Film:
Directors: Annie O’Neil and Jessica Lewis

Best High School Competition Short:
Director: Adam Russell
(Rancho Buena Vista High School)

Best College Competition Short:
Director: Nick DeCell
(Florida State University)



Best Sports Film:
Director: Charlene Fisk


Best Documentary Short:
Directors: Annie O’Neil and Jessica Lewis

Best Narrative Short:
Director: Tim Ellrich

Best Animated Short:
Directors: Melanie Brunt and Mikey Hill

Tommy Kelly


Carruth Cellars

Chandler’s Oceanfront Dining

Bistro West
This week at Unseen a few more new releases as things wind down and we go into a holding pattern until DOC NYC. I have a bunch of films to look at For that, for example I have to finish the ESPN OJ doc and the Amanda Knox film. I'm trying to work out what I'm seeing there and that's taking priority- though I just got an inde film for review that was shot two blocks from my house so I have to sit down and watch that.
And some links from Randi

secret places underground
Too scary for young priests
Birth of A Nation may lose a boatload of money
Italy's rarest pasta
Wildlife photographer of the year

Monster aka The Horrible Dr Crimmen aka El Monstruo Resucitado (1953)

Intriguing if not always successful horror film from Mexico is a weird mix of Frankenstein and Phantom of the Opera.

A reporter answers a lonely hearts and meets a brilliant but disfigured plastic surgeon. They seem to hit it off,but when the doctor overhears a conversation suggesting the affection he was shown was less than honest he flips out and vows to get revenge. He attempts to using the body of a recently deceased and extremely handsome presidential candidate to get revenge.

If you can get past the cheapness, the frequent rear projection and mixed effect makeup then you're going to have a pretty good time. An atypical in construction horror tale is in large part a romantic soap opera and it makes for a rather dream like film. There is something about the music and the claustrophobic and carefully constructed images that makes this film rather eerie.

The film isn't perfect, it can be extremely clunky at times, but at at the same time it's one of those footnote films that any lover of horror films really should take a look at.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

In Brief: Detention of the Dead (2012)

Based on a stage play this is a semi-immobile zombie film about a bunch of students trapped in a school during a zombie attack. An odd mix of comedy and horror didn't work for me largely because of long sequences which kind of just sit there. While the film gets a lot of points for being better than most zombie films, it never fully over comes it origins.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Into The Inferno (2016) Toronto 2016

Cinematically there are few things as perfect and beautiful as Werner Herzog operating at the top of his game. When Herzog clicks with his subject the most amazing mind blowing things happen. With INTO THE INFERNO Herzog is (mostly) operating that in rarefied air where cinematic classics dwell.

This film is nominally a trip around the world with Werner Herzog  and his co-director Clive Oppenheimer, a vulcanologist to see active volcanos. Herzog met Oppenheimer during his trip to Antartica for ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD. The pair  fell in with each other on the edge of a crater and have been talking ever since. The trips allow Herzog to ruminate on the volcanos, the lives of the people who live by them and his career (Herzog has been chasing volcanos for decades).

Leave it to Herzog to go off with a scientist and and end up making a film that is mystical and more interested in the unquantifiable questions concerning the effects of the living mountains on human beings Clearly Herzog knows that they haunt people since they have been in several of his films going all the way back to the marvelous LA SOUFRIERE  where he went to an island that was about to explode. Herzog's examination is book-ended with the words of two tribal elders on different islands of the same archipelago talking about the spirits that inhabit the volcanos. The sequences are not condescending nor funny. We don't laugh at the men, the first, because his sincerity comes through so clearly that it's impossible not to believe him, while with the second we have traveled long enough and far enough with Herzog that we accept hat he is saying as a kind of truth.

Herzog's quest to see effects of the mountains on people takes us to some interesting places including North Korea where where a now dormant volcano is said to be the birth place of the Korean people. It's a weird sequence that even Herzog acknowledges is strange with it's stage managed presentation of life in the country. As Herzog says its just something where you just have to go with it. It includes a weird encounter where a bunch of college students sing to the volcano. Its one of those odd moments where you think that Herzog is putting us on except it's so weird a thing and North Korea is supposed to be crazy enough that you accept that it's something that happened

While Herzog's contemplations are interesting, what givess the film and Herzog's words their power are the visuals. A mix of old and  new footage both from Herzog and by others showing the volcanos erupting, sputtering or just simmering. Herzog gives us some of the most amazing things you'll ever see and and they are of such power that you come to understand why the living mountains have such a hold over the people living around them. If I saw the things in this film on a regular basis I too would find them mystical. The images are so over powering that I want to see the film several more times just to see the imagery.

As good as the film is the film has a major flaw that upsets the films narrative  to the point it makes what is largely one of Herzog's best films and makes it a little less. It happens during the trip to Ethiopia where Herzog and Oppenheinmer connect with an anthropologist who has just located the fossil remains of an ancient hominid. In a sequence that runs way too long and in no way ties into the rest of the film we listen to the man prattle on about human origins and watch as he and the filmmaker root around in the dirt for bone fragments. It stops the film dead and runs so long that the film kind of never recovers. The thematic threads of volcanos and people get stretched or snap and one wonders how some of the next sequences tie in. Honestly it wasn't until the final bit with the talk of a mythical American god and a cargo cult that the film got back on track

Problems or no INTO THE INFERNO is an amazing film. In a weird way it's one of my favorite Werner Herzog films because when it's on and the sound, narration and image link up it becomes one of the great brain expanders of the year. This is a magical film that should be seen as big as possible. I can't recommend this film enough.

INTO THE INFERNO is heading for Netflix on October 28, but  the film is getting festival a nd theatricalscreenings so if you get a chance see it- preferably on a big screen where the sound and image will leave you in state of ecstatic giddiness.

One of my favorite films of 2016

Total Verhoeven at Lincoln Center with the director in attendance November 15 and 16

The Film Society of Lincoln Center announces Total Verhoeven, a complete retrospective of the fearless director’s work, on the occasion of the U.S. release of new film Elle (NYFF54), November 9-23.

Verhoeven will appear in person for the retrospective, participating in Q&As after screenings of RoboCop on November 15 and his second Dutch feature, Turkish Delight, on November 16. Additionally, he will introduce Starship Troopers on November 15 and Showgirls on November 16.

Tickets will go on sale Thursday, October 27 and are $14; $11 for students and seniors (62+); and $9 for members. Tickets for the sneak preview of Elle are $18; $13 for members. See more and save with 3+ film discount package (Elle excluded) and $125 All Access Pass (Elle included).

I don't think I need to say more than that other than go buy tickets.

All films screening at Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street)

Paul Verhoeven, France/Germany, 2016, 131m
French with English subtitles
Paul Verhoeven’s first feature in a decade—and his first in French—ranks among his most incendiary, improbable concoctions: a wry, almost-screwball comedy of manners about a woman who responds to a rape by refusing the mantle of victimhood. As the film opens, Parisian heroine Michèle (a brilliant Isabelle Huppert) is brutally violated in her kitchen by a hooded intruder. Rather than report the crime, Michèle, the CEO of a video game company and daughter of a notorious mass murderer, calmly sweeps up the mess and proceeds to engage her assailant in a dangerous game of domination and submission in which her motivations remain a constant source of mystery, humor, and tension. A Sony Pictures Classics release. An NYFF54 selection.
Wednesday, November 9, 6:30pm

Basic Instinct
Paul Verhoeven, USA/France, 1992, 35mm, 128m
Verhoeven’s sleek, sexually daring thriller is Vertigo for the 1990s. Michael Douglas is the troubled police detective seduced into a series of cat-and-mouse mind games by Sharon Stone’s Catherine Tramell, a cool, Hitchcock-blonde crime novelist with a penchant for sleeping with murderers and who may or may not be one herself. Throughout, Verhoeven revels in the story’s ambiguity, creating a world in which sex is both unbelievably hot and charged with menace, and nearly everyone is guilty of something. Even the ending is a tease.
Wednesday, November 9, 9:15pm
Tuesday, November 15, 3:45pm
Saturday, November 19, 6:45pm

Black Book / Zwartboek
Paul Verhoeven, Netherlands, 2006, 35mm, 145m
English, Dutch, German, and Hebrew with English subtitles
Working in the Netherlands again after two decades in Hollywood, Verhoeven seized the opportunity to make an unusually complex World War II thriller. After her family is gunned down by the SS, a Jewish singer (Carice van Houten) goes undercover as a spy for the Dutch resistance, risking everything when she becomes romantically involved with a Nazi officer (Sebastian Koch). Shifting loyalties, double crosses, and Mata Hari-esque sexual intrigue abound, but what’s most striking is Verhoeven’s characteristic ambivalence: as in so many of his films he creates a finely shaded world in which everyone must make tough moral compromises to survive.
Monday, November 14, 3:00pm
Friday, November 18, 6:15pm

Business Is Business / Wat zien ik
Paul Verhoeven, Netherlands, 1971, 35mm, 90m
English-dubbed version
Verhoeven’s first feature is unmistakably his: outrageous, satiric, erotic, and gleefully unrespectable. It’s a chaotic comic portrait of two enterprising prostitutes (Ronnie Bierman and Sylvia de Leur) looking for love in between rendezvous with clients. (Their specialty: role-playing everything from chickens to corpses for their kinky customers.) A goofy, groovy tour through the red light district of swinging ‘70s Amsterdam, Business Is Business may be the most high-spirited, relatively untroubled film of Verhoeven’s career thus far, but it’s also the first iteration of one of his key themes: we do what we must to survive.
Thursday, November 10, 7:00pm
Sunday, November 13, 6:30pm

The 4th Man / De vierde man
Paul Verhoeven, Netherlands, 1983, 35mm, 102m
Dutch with English subtitles
While most of Verhoeven’s works can be read as subversive genre exercises, the last Dutch film he made before decamping for Hollywood plays like a feverish satire of a Serious European Art Film. Haunted by surreal visions of death and violence, a Catholic, alcoholic, bisexual writer (Jeroen Krabbé) is seduced by and shacks up with a suspiciously thrice-widowed beauty salon owner (Renée Soutendijk)—but he really has eyes for her sexy, would-be boyfriend (Thom Hoffman). One of the director’s most outlandish and inspired films is an alternately funny and freaky hothouse blend of oneiric symbolism, homoeroticism, religious iconography, and witchcraft.
Thursday, November 10, 9:15pm
Sunday, November 13, 4:15pm

Paul Verhoeven, USA/Spain/Netherlands, 1985, 35mm, 126m
Though it was Verhoeven’s first English-language film, Flesh+Blood is in many ways an extension of his Dutch work: it’s shot by regular cinematographer Jan de Bont, stars frequent leading man Rutger Hauer, and is marked by the director’s typically thorny sensibility. Italy, 1501: after they’re swindled by a nobleman, a band of mercenaries headed by the savage Martin (Hauer) get their revenge by kidnapping his son’s young bride-to-be (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Worlds removed from the chivalrous romance of Hollywood legends, this is a muddy, bloody, brutal vision of the Middle Ages, with a rapist-kidnapper antihero at its center. Little wonder it was met with indifference by American audiences unprepared for Verhoeven’s uncompromising worldview.
Saturday, November 12, 1:30pm
Sunday, November 20, 3:30pm

Hollow Man
Paul Verhoeven, USA/Germany, 2000, 35mm, 112m
Verhoeven’s last Hollywood film to date is this underrated, twisted take on The Invisible Man. Kevin Bacon is an egomaniac scientist who makes himself the human guinea pig in a top-secret, government-funded invisibility experiment—but this newly acquired “power” unleashes his inner homicidal maniac. Verhoeven makes inventive use of state-of-the-art special effects (ever wondered what an invisible man looks like underwater?) in this satisfyingly pulpy thriller, which is, “like his other films, the work of a macabre moralist who's fascinated by the shape of our worst impulses” (Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader).
Friday, November 18, 9:15pm
Sunday, November 20, 8:30pm

Katie Tippel / Keetje Tippel
Paul Verhoeven, Netherlands, 1975, 35mm, 107m
Dutch with English subtitles
One of Verhoeven’s most visually beautiful films depicts both the squalor and opulence of 19th-century Europe. Born into extreme poverty, Katie (Turkish Delight’s Monique van de Ven)—something like the great-grandmother of Showgirls’ ruthless Nomi—must rely on her tenacity to get ahead, as she goes from prostitute to artist’s model to fine lady in turn-of-the-century Amsterdam. Verhoeven twists this earthy, up-from-the-gutter tale—based on the memoirs of Dutch realist writer Neel Doff—into an indictment of capitalist exploitation.
Sunday, November 13, 8:30pm
Wednesday, November 16, 4:00pm

Paul Verhoeven, USA, 1987, 101m
Verhoeven demonstrated his ability to deliver both genre thrills and serious social commentary in this prescient and disturbing look at the rise of the corporate police state. In a dystopian, futuristic Detroit, a nefarious mega-conglomerate unveils the latest in crime-fighting technology: part cyborg, part revivified corpse of a police officer (Peter Weller) slain in the line of duty, RoboCop at first seems a surefire success—until he rebels against his programming. This sci-fi pulp masterpiece is packed with both inventive filmmaking—a grimy, cyberpunk look; satiric news broadcasts; chilling point-of-view shots—and provocative ideas about corporate takeover, the militarization of the police force, and the relationship between man and machine. 4K restoration of the uncut version!
Friday, November 11, 7:00pm
Tuesday, November 15, 6:30pm (Q&A with Paul Verhoeven)
Thursday, November 17, 4:00pm
Tuesday, November 22, 9:30pm

Paul Verhoeven, USA/France, 1995, 35mm, 131m
Unbound by musty notions of “good taste,” Showgirls goes further than any other film of the 1990s in its orgiastic depiction of consumerism, crass spectacle, and the dark side of the American Dream. Elizabeth Berkley (in a tour-de-force of hysterical excess) stars as Nomi, a tough-as-nails drifter with a go-it-alone attitude and a murky past, who arrives in Las Vegas and sets about trampling on everyone around her—including Gina Gershon’s evil-seductive nightclub diva—as she fights her way up from stripper in a sleazy club to star showgirl. With its deliciously overripe dialogue and nigh-unhinged performances, Showgirls is both a delirious star-is-born satire and a terrifying vision of capitalism’s corruption of the soul.
Friday, November 11, 4:15pm
Saturday, November 12, 9:00pm
Wednesday, November 16, 9:15pm (Introduction by Paul Verhoeven)
Friday, November 18, 3:30pm

Soldier of Orange / Soldaat van Oranje
Paul Verhoeven, Netherlands, 1977, 35mm, 150m
English, German, and Dutch with English subtitles
This bracing World War II epic was the film that brought Verhoeven to Hollywood’s attention. It follows a group of college friends through the Nazi occupation of Holland, as two (Rutger Hauer and Jeroen Krabbé) becomes heroes of the resistance movement, while another (Derek de Lint) turns traitor. As usual, Verhoeven’s moral ambiguity and skewed sensibility keep things complicated: far from a patriotic flag-waver, Soldier of Orange is as knotty, subversive, and gonzo as war movies get (witness the hero performing a homoerotic tango), while demonstrating Verhoeven’s ability to balance action with involving human drama.
Tuesday, November 22, 6:30pm
Wednesday, November 23, 3:00pm

Paul Verhoeven, Netherlands, 1980, 35mm, 120m
Dutch with English subtitles
Something of a male-driven precursor to Showgirls: as he would do in that film fifteen years later, Verhoeven takes a lurid soap opera premise, subverts it with deadly dark humor, and dials up the emotional intensity to create a funhouse-mirror reflection of a sick society. Playing like a biker exploitation film as directed by Cassavetes, Spetters is a sexually charged psychodrama that charts the coming-of-age of three blue-collar, motocross-obsessed young men. Hopped up on testosterone, the boys live to race their dirt bikes and dream of one day becoming as famous as the world champion, Gerrit Witkamp (Rutger Hauer)—but fate has other things in store. Homosexuality, religion, suicide, misogyny, and empty-headed macho posturing are all addressed with an unflinching frankness and a razor-sharp satiric edge.
Thursday, November 10, 4:30pm
Saturday, November 12, 4:00pm

Starship Troopers
Paul Verhoeven, USA, 1997, 129m
Part comic book–style action adventure, part scathing satire of the military-industrial complex, Starship Troopers is one of the most subversive artistic acts ever perpetrated with a $100 million budget. Welcome to the 24th century, where fresh-faced, idealistic teens are encouraged to join up and become “citizens” by enlisting in the intergalactic army. They’ll grow up, see the universe, and, oh yeah, be slaughtered by the thousands as they battle giant, mutant insects threatening to wipe out mankind. Abetted by seamless special effects and impressively gory CGI carnage, Verhoeven delivers both a thrilling science fiction spectacle and a devastating takedown of jingoistic militarism.
Friday, November 11, 9:00pm
Tuesday, November 15, 9:15pm (Introduction by Paul Verhoeven)
Saturday, November 19, 9:30pm

Total Recall
Paul Verhoeven, USA, 1990, 113m
2084: Arnold Schwarzenegger is construction worker Douglas Quaid, whose virtual reality vacation to Mars turns into the ultimate head-trip when he discovers that his entire life (including wife Sharon Stone) is a sham based on implanted memories. Jetting off to the real Red Planet to find out the truth, he finds himself on the run through a grungy, capitalist dystopia populated by proletarian mutants. Verhoeven’s adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” is like RoboCop played at hyper-speed, with its themes of corporate control, memory, and identity delivered in an even faster, funnier, and (thanks to Rob Bottin’s impressively icky makeup effects) gorier package.
Saturday, November 12, 6:30pm
Saturday, November 19, 2:00pm

Tricked / Steekspel
Paul Verhoeven, Netherlands, 2012, 55m
English and Dutch with English subtitles
In a daring online experiment, over 400 people contributed to a crowd-sourced script that resulted in what Verhoeven describes as “my 14½, like Fellini's 8½.” It’s a darkly comic family farce in which a Dutch husband and father’s fiftieth birthday celebration is dampened when his ex-flame shows up pregnant with his baby. Meanwhile, he’s got a pervy son, alcoholic daughter, and two business partners planning to push him out of his company to contend with. The exquisite corpse–style writing process results in an hour jam-packed with plot twists, all held together by Verhoeven’s tongue-in-cheek, un-self-serious approach.
Sunday, November 20, 2:00pm
Tuesday, November 22, 5:00pm

Turkish Delight / Turks fruit
Paul Verhoeven, Netherlands, 1973, 35mm, 108m
English and Dutch with English subtitles
Named the Best Dutch Film of the Century by the Netherlands Film Festival, Verhoeven’s hugely successful, Academy Award–nominated sophomore feature opens with a giallo-style jolt, develops into a kinky, blackly comic sexploitation romp, and finally blossoms into an alternately sweet and perverse romance. In the first of his many collaborations with Verhoeven, Rutger Hauer stars as a temperamental sculptor who hitches a ride with a free-spirited young woman (Monique van de Ven). In short order they hook up on the side of the road, get married, and settle into a life of round-the-clock lovemaking in his art-strewn studio—but, alas, nothing lasts forever.
Sunday, November 13, 2:00pm
Wednesday, November 16, 6:30pm (Q&A with Paul Verhoeven)

Shorts Program (TRT: 112m)
Each made by Verhoeven before his first feature, these five short films center around youth and school life, and provide a glimpse into the director’s early fascinations with female dominance, technology, and war.
Saturday, November 19, 4:30pm
Sunday, November 20, 6:00pm

A Lizard Too Much / Eén Hagedis te veel
Paul Verhoeven, 1960, Netherlands, 32m
Dutch with English subtitles
In Verhoeven’s first film, an artist’s wife has an affair with one of her students, who has a mistress of his own.

Nothing Special / Niets Bijzonders
Paul Verhoeven, 1961, Netherlands, 9m
Dutch with English subtitles
This improvised short involves a man sitting in a bar, considering his relationship with his girlfriend as he watches a different woman nearby.

Let’s Have a Party / Feest!
Paul Verhoeven, 1963, Netherlands, 28m
Dutch with English subtitles
A shy student falls in love with a girl from another class. After he works up the courage to ask her to the school dance, something unexpected happens.

The Royal Dutch Marine Corps / Het Korps Mariniers
Paul Verhoeven, 1965, Netherlands, 23m
Dutch with English subtitles
Made while Verhoeven was in the military, this propaganda film follows various exercises carried out by the Royal Dutch Marine Corps.

The Wrestler / De Worstelaar
Paul Verhoeven, 1971, Netherlands, 20m
Dutch with English subtitles
A concerned father follows his son and the boy’s lover—the wife of a wrestler—in an attempt to end the relationship before the wrestler finds out.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Pop! Goes Cinema: Kadokawa Film & 1980s Japan November 8-December 17, 2016, at Japan Society

New York, NY – Established by the larger-than-life, controversial businessman, producer and visionary Haruki Kadokawa, the game-changing Kadokawa Film studio redefined Japanese popular culture and media from the late 1970s through the 1980s with a series of highly marketed blockbusters, pop idol vehicles and off-the-walls genre films, each a unique blend of mainstream pop and experimental cinema unlike anything Japan had seen at the time.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Kadokawa’s shift from publishing house to cinematic powerhouse, Japan Society presents Pop! Goes Cinema: Kadokawa Film & 1980s Japan, a mini-retrospective of six celebrated and rarely-screened selections from Kadokawa — almost all in brand-new 4k restorations.

Running November 8 through December 17, the series presents the wildly popular genre favorites Sailor Suit and Machine Gun and The Little Girl Who Conquered Time, both among some of the most defining films of the 1980s in Japan, as well as more obscure titles that embody Kadokawa's trademark highbrow-lowbrow clash of sexy, broody, sensual and cool. Revelations abound for the uninitiated and familiar alike from Yusaku Matsuda’s creepy, all-or-nothing performance in The Beast to Die, to the hauntingly beautiful melodies of W’s Tragedy by Joe Hisaishi. Rounding out the series are the unconventional romance Play it, Boogie-Woogie, and the bigger-than-big budget Virus, starring a globe-spanning international cast.

Featured filmmakers include some of Japan’s most revered cult and genre directors, notably Toshiya Fujita (Lady Snowblood, Stray Cat Rock), Kinji Fukasaku (Battle Royale, Battles Without Honor and Humanity) and Nobuhiko Obayashi (House, School in the Crosshairs), as well as several career-making and/or career-defining performances from Yusaku Matsuda, one of Japanese cinema's biggest stars though virtually unknown outside of Japan, to Tomoyo Harada and Hiroko Yakushimaru, Kadokawa’s biggest idol stars, whose debut roles are included in the series.

With the exception of Play it, Boogie-Woogie all films have been newly restored digitally as 4k scans output to 2k DCPs, with these screenings marking the U.S. Premieres of the restorations. None of these films are available on home video with English subtitles.

When Haruki Kadokawa transformed the mid-size publishing house into a film studio, he formulated a revolutionary-for-its-time "mixed media" marketing strategy that sold films with crossover books and soundtrack albums. Jumpstarting the 1970s blockbuster phenomenon in Japan, in just ten years the studio produced six of the ten most successful films in Japanese film history. In addition to producing over 70 films and directing six, the flamboyant and eccentric Kadokawa was a prize-winning poet, accomplished sailor, and even the head Shinto priest of his own shrine.

"While an older generation of film critics despised Kadokawa and his films as a step towards depoliticization and a totalizing consumer culture, Kadokawa’s media mix captured the burgeoning anything-goes atmosphere of 1980s pop culture in Japan," writes series curator Alexander Zahlten, Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University, and Program Director for Nippon Connection Film Festival in Frankfurt, Germany from 2002 to 2010. "Kadokawa Film defined an era – and laid the groundwork for the vibrant Japanese media ecology of today."

Japan Society's Senior Film Programmer Aiko Masubuchi adds, "These selections represent a monumental shift in Japanese cinema that happened during the early 1980s, an often overlooked or unfairly maligned decade in Japanese film history that, for better or worse, completely changed popular culture in Japan. While many Japanese audiences will be very familiar with these titles and their stars, this is largely an introduction for New Yorkers to the uniquely spectacular cinema of excess and imagination that characterized Kadokawa Film."

Pop! Goes Cinema is an extension of 40th anniversary celebrations happening this year throughout Japan, including a Kadokawa-organized festival so popular that an encore is in the works, and a major retrospective at Tokyo's National Film Center, Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.

Admission: $13/$10 seniors and students/$9 Japan Society members. Special Offer: Purchase tickets for at least three films in the same transaction and receive $2 off each ticket. Tickets can be purchased in person at Japan Society, online at, or by calling the box office at 212-715-1258.

All films in Japanese with English subtitles unless otherwise noted. Film descriptions written by series curator Alexander Zahlten.

Sailor Suit and Machine Gun (Serafuku to Kikanju)
Tuesday, November 8 at 7 PM
**New 4k Restoration
**Followed by a reception
1981, 112 min., DCP, color. Directed by Shinji Somai. In English with Japanese subtitles. With Hiroko Yakushimaru, Tsunehiko Watase, Akira Emoto.
One of the defining films of 1980s Japanese cinema, Sailor Suit and Machine Gun shows pop idol/actress Hiroko Yakushimaru and director Shinji Somai at the peak of their powers through the story of a schoolgirl who becomes the head of a yakuza group and takes on a sinister drug cartel. Somai uses the pulpy premise to design fascinatingly orchestrated and downright wacky long takes that explore the meaning of postmodern Japan's image culture. For Kadokawa Film it was one of the defining successes of their idol strategy, creating cypher-like media personas that were like nothing that came before. Based on 1978 novel by Jiro Akagawa, Sailor Suit and Machine Gun became the fourth most successful film from Japan at the time and won two Japan Academy Prizes. Yakushimaru was Kadokawa’s first idol star, and the film launched her successful career as an actress and pop singer.

The Beast to Die (Yaju Shisubeshi)
Tuesday, November 15 at 7:00 pm
** New 4k Restoration
1980, 119 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Toru Murakawa. With Yusaku Matsuda, Takeshi Kaga, Hideo Murota.
Action star Yusaku Matsuda started his journey towards melding arthouse film and pop in this mesmerizingly stylized and Nietzschean heist film about a war reporter planning to rob a bank. Scriptwriter Shoichi Maruyama became an overnight sensation for his unique mix of the surreal and hard-boiled realism. Haruki Kadokawa used the film to embark on a new kind of small-scale blockbuster that emphasized artistic freedom. Though based on a bestseller by Haruhiko Oyabu, Kadokawa told Maruyama: "All I want is the novel's title and your modern sensibility." Foreshadowing the self-reflexive play of Japan's bubble era, the film tackles the insecurities of an increasingly international Japan.

Virus (Fukkatsu no Hi)
Tuesday, November 22 at 7:00 pm
** New 4k Restoration
1980, 156 min., DCP, color, in English, French, German and Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kinji Fukasaku. With Masao Kusakari, Isao Natsuyagi, Sonny Chiba.
By far the most expensive film ever made in Japan at the time, the apocalyptic blockbuster Virus was Kadokawa's most widely distributed film outside of Japan. Kinji Fukasaku (Battle Royale, Battles Without Honor and Humanity) directs this spectacular story of the struggle for survival of a team of international scientists in the Antarctic after a virus has wiped out the rest of humanity and set off a nuclear countdown. The apex of the Kadokawa blockbuster strategy, Virus was rolled out with a massive advertising campaign. Both gripping and campy, the film signaled the end of Haruki Kadokawa's quest for ever bigger films and his re-orientation towards pop experimentalism and idol stars. The film features a sizeable international cast including Hollywood stars George Kennedy, Olivia Hussey, Robert Vaughn, Glenn Ford, Edward James Olmos, and Chuck Connors. This screening is of the Japanese version, which is almost 50 minutes longer than the cut distributed in the U.S.

Play it, Boogie-Woogie (Suro na Bugi ni Shite Kure)
Tuesday, December 6 at 7:00 pm
1982, 130 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Toshiya Fujita. With Atsuko Asano, Masato Furuoya, Tsutomu Yamazaki.
A young woman, a motorcycle-riding youth, and an older man negotiate a strange and tensely romantic relationship in a film that is unusual in the Kadokawa lineup. Employing 1970s wildman director Toshiya Fujita (Lady Snowblood), Kadokawa Film continues to play with the fragments of U.S. pop culture while Fujita injects a playfully stylized realism. The film continued Haruki Kadokawa's new strategy of using more auteur-minded directors that had no qualms about working in genre film. Atsuko Asano created a stir for her embodiment of a young woman not willing to be bound by conventions and intent on negotiating new forms of relationships.

The Little Girl Who Conquered Time (Toki o Kakeru Shojo)
Tuesday, December 13 at 7:00 pm
** New 4k Restoration
1983, 104 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi. With Tomoyo Harada, Ryoichi Takayanagi, Toshinori Omi.
Launching Kadokawa idol Tomoyo Harada into superstardom, this timeslip drama is based on the famous science fiction novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui and directed by the creative whirlwind Nobuhiko Obayashi (House). As Harada's schoolgirl struggles to figure out why she uncontrollably jumps forward and backward in time, Obayashi's unique and offbeat sensibility crafts a film that captured the hearts of an entire generation of moviegoers in Japan. It also offers a meditation on the new sense of time that a Kadokawa film offered--a vision of Japan that is simultaneously past, present and future. Remade several times since, the most well-known version in the U.S. is the 2006 anime version by Mamoru Hosoda.

W’s Tragedy (W no Higeki)
Saturday, December 17 at 7:00 pm
**New 4k Restoration
**Introduction with guest curator Alexander Zahlten
1984, 108 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Shinichiro Sawai. With Hiroko Yakushimaru, Yoshiko Mita, Masanori Sera.
W's Tragedy racked up all of the major film prizes of 1984 in Japan (Best Director, Film Script, Actress, Supporting Actress and Best Recording for the 9th Japan Academy Prize), a rare occurrence for Kadokawa's pop experimentalism (often met with open revulsion by the powerful older generation of film critics). In her last film for Kadokawa, Hiroko Yakushimaru stars as a young, aspiring stage actress who develops frightening ambitions to become a star in this self-reflexive, fascinatingly complex film. Shinichiro Sawai, one of the great, under-appreciated directors of the 1980s, masterfully follows the sometimes mind-bending Kadokawa pattern of making films that are, in some way, always also about Kadokawa. Scored by Joe Hisaishi, best known for scoring nearly all of Hayao Miyazaki’s films.

Kadokawa & the Shaping of Japanese Popular Culture
Saturday, December 17 at 5:00 pm
Flamboyant and eccentric, Haruki Kadokawa transformed the film and media industry by marketing his films through what he called "media mix." From Haruki's wildly successful entry into film production to the turn towards marketing idols and his spectacular self-promotion, Kadokawa films created the template for the postmodern, anything-goes Japanese pop culture of the 1980s. Later, his brother Tsuguhiko radicalized the media mix model by changing the very way media is consumed. In this talk series curator Alexander Zahlten introduces some key moments in Kadokawa's shaping of Japanese popular culture from the 1970s to today. Approx. 60 min. This event is free with the purchase of a ticket to any film in the series. Seating is limited. Ticketholders will be accommodated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Paul Schrader at Metrograph in a six film retrospective October 29-November 1

As an influential film critic, screenwriter, and director, Paul Schrader has always gone his own way, whether picking fights with auteurist lemmings, courting controversy with the powderkeg script of Taxi Driver, or constantly developing and discarding radical stylistic approaches in his own films. His latest cinematic melee, Dog Eat Dog, proves Schrader hasn’t mellowed with age. Metrograph is pleased welcome Schrader in-person for a brief tribute to a most unquiet career, from October 29 to November 1.

Dog Eat Dog (2016/93 mins/DCP) - Schrader To Appear In-Person!
This highly anticipated new film from Paul Schrader is a transgressive, genre-defying crime drama starring Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe, and Christopher Matthew Cook as ex-cons who are hired by a mysterious mob boss to kidnap a baby for a high ransom. When the abduction goes awry, the unholy three find themselves on the run from both the mob and the cops. Vowing to stay out of prison at all costs, their escape becomes an odyssey skidding and zig-zagging between life and death. Based on the novel by Edward Bunker.
Sat., Oct. 29 - 8:00pm

Affliction (1997/114 mins/35mm)
In a snow-bound small town in New Hampshire, policeman Wade Whitehouse (Nick Nolte) digs into a possible murder case, all while dealing with the death of his mother, the increasingly uncontrollable drinking of his father (James Coburn), and the persecution of inner demons. A grueling actor’s duet, and an extremely personal film for Schrader, exorcizing memories of growing up under a domestic dictator.
Tues., Nov 1 - 9:15pm

American Gigolo (1980/117 mins/35mm) - Schrader In-Person At 3:30pm Screening!
Richard Gere, Lauren Hutton, Giorgios Armani and Moroder, “visual consultant” Ferdinando Scarfiotti: this is the movie where Schrader found a new alchemy of style and soul, fusing Italian design and west coast cool, queer aesthetics and religious art from the 12th century to Robert Bresson. Quite simply one of the most visually influential films of the 80s… though imitators often forget the humanity at its core.
Sun., Oct. 30 - 3:30pm, 8:30pm

Blue Collar (1978/114 mins/35mm)
Schrader swings for the fences in his feature debut, starring Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel, and Yaphet Kotto as a trio of Detroit auto line workers who, tired of getting it from both ends from management and the union, decide to bust open the union piggybank, falling afoul of some real bad dudes in the process. No movie would ever again get such pathos from Pryor, also inevitably funny in this, his very best fiction film performance.
Tues., Nov. 1 - 7:00pm

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985/121 mins/35mm) - Schrader To Appear In-Person!
Self-destruction and the (particularly masculine) death drive have been constants in Schrader’s filmography, so it’s only natural that he would be attracted to the story of Yukio Mishima, the renegade/ultra-traditionalist Japanese artist who lived his life as an artwork, with his seppuku his final masterstroke. Starring a masterful Ken Ogata as Mishima, with Philip Glass’s stirring score accompanying sumptuously stylized visualizations from Mishima’s body of work.
Sat., Oct. 29 - 5:45pm

Patty Hearst (1988/108 mins/35mm) - Schrader To Appear In-Person!
An unnerving satire of counterculture radical chic and the fallout of the 1960s, Schrader’s Brechtian biopic stars Natasha Richardson as the Hearst Corp. heiress famously kidnapped and inducted into the Symbionese Liberation Army, here played by Ving Rhames and William Forsythe, in this absorbingly-paranoiac, dark comedy.
Sun., Oct. 30 - 6:00pm