The original idea here was a kind of journal documenting--for whatever reason--my cultural activity. That hasn’t fallen by the wayside but lots of things haven’t been mentioned, including most music. So this is the first in a series of “catch up” overviews:
Passing Fancy (Ozu 1933) - When David Shepard introduced this screening he said he thinks this is an unacknowledged remake of Vidor’s The Champ and that’s plausible enough. Nice enough film but not top Ozu.
Page of Madness (Teinosuke Kinugasa 1926) - I’ve had a tape of this taken from a NYC broadcast for years but had watched only a minute to see what the quality was. Too bad because this is a real jawdropper of gonzo anything-goes experimentalism along the lines of Man With a Movie Camera though quasi-theatrical and with a more or less narrative. I do wonder though if the introductory archival scroll didn’t give the basic plot setup whether you’d be able to figure it out from the film.
Dawn of the Dead (Zack Snyder 2004) - This remake appeared to be an unusually dumb idea but it turned out with substance and a few surprises of its own. There are only a few stabs at the original’s satire or b-movie existentialism (despite the new ending) but with a controlled economy of pace who cares?
Leonard Bernstein: Reaching for the Note (Susan Lacy 1999) - Mildly interesting but too much of a hagiography and too conventional to be anything more.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry 2004) - If I could ever make films this is exactly what I would attempt but know I don’t have the right kind of visual imagination. (Though a metafictional zombie film might be a good idea.) Jim Carrey is much more appropriate here than his other “serious” films or for that matter his comedies. Gondry comes off better than I’d have expected from the DVD of his music videos (which I admittedly haven’t watched all the way through yet).
Versus (Ryuhei Kitamura 2000) - Speaking of unusually dumb zombie films this also can boast being unusually slack, unusually unimaginative and unusually badly written. And it lasts about six or seven or eight hours. Watch Junk instead.
Ride ‘Em Cowboy (Arthur Lubin 1942) - In some ways a typical Abbott & Costello film based on a blah plot spiked with their unrelated routines though a bit too dull to be entirely typical. Odd to see a girlish (though age 25) Ella Fitzgerald standing out from the other instantly forgettable performers.
The Stendhal Syndrome (Dario Argento 1996) - Though the first half-hour promises a peculiar look into the nature of art Argento soon lapses into giallo conventions. Plus you have to wonder about somebody who directs his own daughter in a rape scene.
Baba Yaga (Corrado Farina 1973) - A reasonably stylish entry in European dream-horror which I’m officially dubbing EDH and requesting royalties for each use. I realize it’s part of the point to not quite make sense but still can’t help but think a slightly tighter story would have helped, not the least with some of the taffy-drag-out sections.
Suicide Club (Shion Sono 2002) - Now here’s somebody who should have done Versus. I can find almost no background info on Sono other than he’s an experimental poet and director of gay porn which provides no insight into Suicide Club. Marketed as a horror film (at least in the U.S.) this pretty much defies any such classification: it’s also police procedural, raving media satire, a musical (of sorts), performance document, psychological portrait and other as-yet unnamed things. None of this in a sloppy Makavejev collage but more with something of an actual story even if it fights 100-words-or-less summaries, at least partly because it's almost several stories. While it may not be as radical as narrative structure as, say, Bright Future it's still pretty unpredictable. Oh, what's Suicide Club about? Um, maybe grief, epistemology, swimming in pop culture, political power, images, organization, blood, clothing, families, observation.