The War Lover

Reviewing indie/archival/imported DVDs has an ethical parameter distinctive from plain old movie reviewing – rather than simply assessing everything that cascades down the pike, you must select, and then in an effort not to appear at all peevish, you select the most worthwhile options, week to week. So, the movies on the lower end of the scale, which I have to see as well, never get their day in court. I’m committed to justice, so here are money shots taken at recent releases I refused to cover:

The History Boys (2006) Straining, education-free theatrical camp, and I mean that in an actively hostile way.

The Notorious Bettie Page (2006) Was Page this dull? It’s impossible to imagine.

Nuit Noire (Black Night) (2004) German brooder Olivier Smolders essentially remakes Eraserhead, but with large and weird European bugs.

My Best Friend (2006) What crap. So of course it was remade in Hollywood.

Life Is a Bed of Roses (La Vie Est un Roman) (1983) Alain Renais has fun in a mansion full of actors, but can’t say we had the same.

The Bow (2005) Kim Ki-duk’s comet continues to arc downward. Folktale-simplistic to the point of being childish.

Trigger Man (2007) Quite like the movies I made on Super 8mm in high school. Wait a minute, it’s exactly a movie I made on Super 8mm in high school.

You Kill Me (2007) I was already done right here with the idea that beautiful young women would love to have sex with Ben Kingsley. So arch it curdles in the belly.

Party 7 (2000) The warmup swing before Ishii’s A Taste of Tea and Funky Forest: The First Contact, and not at all amusing.

Redacted (2007) DePalma doing post-Blair Witch combat mock-doc in Iraq?! DePalma doesn’t do realism, folks. The only thing real-seeming about this ham-handed Casualties of War remake is the ordnance.

Sixty Six (2006) If the director of Leonard Part 6 and City Slickers II can still snag, and immolate, new projects like this soft-soap Yiddishe drischla, you can, too.

Where the Truth Lies (2005) Hard to grok what Atom Egoyan was thinking here.

Lady Chatterly (2006) What the fuck? Literally. She’s less "awakened" here than trapped in the mouth-breathing mind of an incurious preteen, and he’s a mopey ape. Jeesh.

Margot at the Wedding (2007) An abomination, glib, anything-for-an-uncomfortable-laugh-line. Is every character on a psychopharmacological program, and if so, why don’t they mention it?

What Remains (2006) Sally Mann is a savvy narcissist, and her documentarian just wants to fuck her.

This Is England (2006) Spittle-flecked skinhead hysteria. Expert, but so? Was it such a serious social problem, or is it just those wacky clothes?

Ludwig (1972) You watch this waxworks wondering how Visconti didn’t get run out of Rome for putting audiences through his films.

The Stranglers of Bombay (1960) I used to like Hammer films as a boy. I must’ve been a very patient kid.

Bosque de Sombras (The Backwoods) (2006) Gary Oldman picking up rent money in Spain.

Day-Time Wife (1939) The worst movie of 1939? If it is, it’s not Linda Darnell’s fault.

Hotel des Ameriques (1981) Andre Techine making it up as he goes along. A wonder he found work again.

Gospel According to Harry (1994) Lech Majewski’s uproariously pretentious music-video-surrealism at work. Likewise for The Roe’s Room (1997) and Glass Lips (2007).

The Man on the Eiffel Tower (1949) Forgotten, rumored to be lost, rediscovered experimental color Maigret mystery, shot in Paris, starring Franchot Tone and Charles Laughton, and still a dud.

Noise (2008) Henry Bean tries for frustrated-modern-man satire, and gets very lost.

Slacker Uprising (2008) This is the mad Moore ego trip evil conservative shitheads have been defining all of the other Moore films as.

Dark Floors (2008) Atmospheric haunted-hospital horror, but the demons are actually the members of the Finnish rock band Lordi, growling.

Rachel Getting Married (2008) A step up from Baumbach’s wedding fiasco, but if Demme hadn’t tried to impress us with his great taste in world music and his cohort of cool musician friends, this would be a 40-minute featurette.

Monte Grande: What Is Life? (2005) A biography of the late philosophical physicist Francisco Varela, who seemed very smart and nice, but who had no significant message to impart. The title question goes unanswered, except as something that ends.

The End of America (2008) Smokin’ hot pundit Naomi Wolf essentially reiterates the points made in her bestselling anti-Bush book to a medium-sized audience. She’s right, and I appreciate the Nazi parallels, but this isn’t a movie, it’s a promotional tool.

Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands (1976) Another famous import hit from the ‘70s bites the dust. Almost unendurable.

Way Down East (1920) Griffith was a stodgy hump; compared to contemporaneous movies (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Parson’s Widow, The Penalty, The Golem, even Olive Thomas’s The Flapper), this is a preachy, lumbering snooze. The ice-floe stunts were cool, though.



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  • 1/10/2009 9:49 PM Alejandro Adams wrote:
    These mortar-shell reviews make for some exhilarating reading.

    I'm glad you picked on Hotel des Ameriques. I adore Techine as an institution, which is probably why I wince when he slumps into self-impersonation (Les Temoins was another disappointment).
    Reply to this
  • 1/29/2009 3:15 PM james keepnews wrote:
    re: margot: i assume you mean "abomination" in the bad sense. i saw this at nyff and have to say i enjoyed it a good deal more than yourself. i can't argue with your overall assessment but with so much american cinema -- not least of which whatever issues forth from whatever is left of the "amerindie" sphere -- feels so cautious and "audience-friendly", any film eager to induce squirming at every opportunity immediately gets a bit of a pass from me. fine work as well from the three principals, each of whose talents greatly benefit from underplaying (mr. black most especially). i also have to love a film where both pre-adoloencents and john tuturro are the most mature, emotionally balanced characters in the cast. true, much of the dialogue in baumbach's films suffer from a certain over-educated, over-cooked sensibility, though here as in the squid and the whale, it's cold comfort for the characters in question. i feel like margot is his least glib film, which may be damning with faint praise...
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  • 3/17/2009 7:08 PM Erich Kuersten wrote:
    Thanks for your bashings of so much bourgeois sacred cow brains, Mr. A. I just ordered your Dark Heart book, so it better be good. But now that I pay your salary, lay off MARGOT AT THE WEDDING! Trash Demme's wedding all you want, but Margot is sacred. I know THREE women just like her, maybe that helps. I'm also a video editor and that helps too, since the editing kicks ASS! Maybe I'm prejudiced. Would you bash some other art films for me!? I hate LA BELLE NOISEUSE.
    Reply to this
    1. 3/21/2009 2:07 PM Michael Atkinson wrote:
      Fascinating. Hope you like the book. But I will not bash Rivette. Can I bash Fellini and Visconti? I bash Fellini and Visconti. The issue with Margot, at these close quarters, isn't that you know women like Margot, but that it's plain to the eyes that Baumbach doesn't, and never did. There I go! Sorry!
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      1. 3/30/2009 2:52 PM Erich Kuersten wrote:
        I am reading the book now and the Ape thing blew my mind. I used to LOVE Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. As a kid especially I was always fascinated by slavery, in the kinky way 1970s kids were.

        I cannot understand you not bash Rivette! Bash Visconti, good. Bash Fellini pre-La Dolce Vita and post-8 1/2, good. but 8 1/2 and La Dolce is very bad to bash
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        1. 3/31/2009 10:41 AM Michael Atkinson wrote:
          Skol! You're right re: Fellini; those are the exceptions.
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  • 12/4/2009 10:24 AM Karl Trader wrote:
    Charmed to hear that Lady Chatterley's got a recent version. The first one dates from the 1970s, that is, nearly 30 years ago. "A propos", how did she manage to remain as young and as exciting as she used to be?
    Reply to this

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