Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - Matt Lynch ""

Monday, January 27, 2014

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - Matt Lynch

Matt Lynch works at the wonderful Scarecrow Video, one of the greatest stores known to cinephile-kind(It is a place I have yet to visit myself, but I hope to correct that before the year 2020). To say Matt watches a metric shit-ton of movies would be an understatement. Following his film watching exploits on twitter, tumblr & Letterboxd, is highly recommended. You should also listen to this interview I did with him a while back: 

Here's his list from last year:
sort of a eurosleaze LE SAMOURAI. pretty deeply misogynist but just as rewardingly violent. also Morricone.

on twitter, after finishing part one, i sort of glibly compared Lang's two-part fantasy epic to Peter Jackson's Tolkien adaptations as kind of a snarky slam on Jackson but on finishing this it's hard not to see just how much he (and Lucas for his prequels, actually) appropriated from Lang, not just photographically & in production design but right down to the structure (both series end with nearly an hour of battle scenes). it's also infused with this dark libidinous energy; so much is motivated not just by revenge but by sexual desire, pursuit not only of ruling power but of physical and spiritual perfection (very German, i jokingly suppose). but i prattle on. this is pretty badass.

supertank jetpack synth-pop machine gun. total facemelter.

"Holler." criminally rare. argues for truth over objectivity, catalogs the hypocrites -- all of us -- who failed to defend it.

FURIOUS (1984)
I've seen this four times now, but watching it with an appreciative audience is one of the highlights of my life as an appreciator of esoteric or trash cinema. some people might look at this and see a "so bad it's good" movie, but i see something inspiring: a couple of guys who took what little resources and experience they had and managed to put together a unique, strangely personal, and wildly entertaining movie. it walks the razor thin line between doing it wrong and not knowing what not to do. it's beautiful, and despite its obvious shortcomings frequently displays genuine wit and craft.
here's a trailer we cut together to promote the screenings.

and here's a link to the Scarecrow Video Podcast with director Tim Everitt.
one story Tim doesn't mention: apparently the waitress in the restaurant scene is Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles; they were dating at the time.

"Fuck BACKDRAFT" -- Johnnie To

U.S. SEALS 2 (2001)
this is a consistently and diabolically stupid movie, yet while stunt men and martial artists may not be great actors, the trade off is well worth it here. Florentine's practiced economy on his breakout film (frequently resembling the "Power Rangers" episodes he cut his teeth on for years) and the outstanding fight choreography make this one of the best DTV action jams i've watched in ages.

THE MARINE 2 (2009)
where did this Roel Reiné guy come from? wider coverage and cutting tight for clarity rather than speed. i even like the CG-assisted single-take sequences. use any tool you can, just use it effectively. brisk and violent (chunky, practical squibs too). sorry to get be so robotic and technical about it but it's refreshing to see such a clean, efficient genre picture. ten times the DIE HARD knockoff OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN could ever be.

The bombast of precision.

"What's the condition of Man?"
"Fucked up. Unable to communicate. At odds with his environment."
awaiting some kind of pervert's apocalypse, like a reset button, ready to be blinded by "little green men who bear the scorching white light of Mu".
there's a moment during "Let's Misbehave" where a lick of flame from the fireplace is reflected in the glass of a picture frame, and Bogdanovich spots it right between Reynolds and Shepherd as they stop for a beat during their dance, and it's just the best.
I love how everything is so white (although now it's hard not to notice that so is everyone except for Johnny Spanish, not that that necessarily matters here), so hard to photograph, and it makes everything look like a black & white film, an effect accentuated with little spots of color everywhere, the green of a champagne bottle or a bright yellow canary in a cage.
oh and Eileen Brennan is just badass in this.

a great, supremely icky, somewhat misogynist and outright bloodthirsty Most Dangerous Game transmission. like all my favorite exploitation, satisfyingly eats its cake and continues to have it.

borderline competent and extremely prurient with some tacked on moralizing. quite the jam.

the camera is an intermediary, a technically complicated tool, a mirror, a convenient scapegoat, and a shrieking intruder.
this is one of the best exploitation films i've ever seen, and it is exploitation.
edit: found Roger Ebert's quite negative review of the film being made in this documentary. here it is.

often downright televisual, necessarily dated, very graphic and frequently incredibly inelegant melodrama about an extremely sexually timid, single 34-year-old white female schoolteacher in 1956 Kansas who, after being raped by him, discovers that she kind of likes having sadomasochistic sex with a black janitor (who proves to be a not very nice guy aside from being a rapist), and what happens when the whole town finds out.
this kind of thing is why i watch exploitation movies.

"I'll kill 'em....American style!" - actual dialogue

"Look, mister...I know this guy just fucked your wife, but...he's our prisoner now. So how 'bout backing off, okay?" -- actual dialogue
from the director of KILLING AMERICAN STYLE.

"You should do something to keep busy." or "If I had known what to expect, I would have thought twice."
my favorite scene is the one in which Sandrine Bonnaire anxiously pounds a double vodka and sucks down a cigarette seemingly in one heavy drag while on a long train ride to the French countryside to avenge her father's murder. it's emblematic of Rivette's de-emphasis of every tangible thriller element in favor of the quotidian details of premeditating a crime or solving a mystery, with emphasis on getting back to your day-to-day afterwards. picking out sunglasses, buying train tickets for the trip, forcing yourself to eat, walking to your hotel.
one of these days i'll have to actually write down my treatment for a hypothetical Rivette-directed remake of Brian Trenchard-Smith's LEPRECHAUN 4: IN SPACE.

absolutely absurd, ultra-cheap spy fantasy and, i fantasize, labor of love directed by Burgess Meredith, who i'm pretty sure is trying to say something about Buddhism, and starring James Mason as a Fu-Manchu knockoff with Jeff "Jeffrey" Bridges (sincerely doing his eager damnedest to turn in a real performance, man, so wait'll you see his little soliloquy) as a petty thief named Nero Finnegan. so extraordinarily inept and so totally outlandish that if it were even remotely exciting it'd be a legendary trash masterpiece. coasts by completely on weirdness, though, and more than worth it for Mason's patently racist "oriental" dentures alone, but make sure you stick around for legendary martial arts director King Hu as a secondary villain (sort of). i wonder what he thought of this movie's fight sequences.
and you guys thought i might not like this.

the punkers laying siege to the titular building in this start out as seemingly stock sub-Castellari, not-particularly-scary thugs, but this quickly transitions into frequent and rather unapologetically nasty violence (in fact the bad guys' opening act escalates so fast and so brutally that this kind of has nowhere to go but down). the whole thing is shot medium-close, and while it's occasionally hard to tell if the tight framing is an intentional play for atmosphere or the result of ineptitude, it's certainly effective in ratcheting up the intensity even as the story stumbles into occasional silliness. also notable for its mainly non-white cast (outside of some cops in the first scene there are only three white characters; almost everyone else is African American or Latino). i spent a lot of this movie imagining that it was BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED if the punks were rapist-murderers and the tenants had to fight back without the help of cute alien robots making babies on the roof.

perhaps because it's Canadian and not American the bad guys aren't representational of some kind of tortured national masculinity, and there's no Vietnam analog, so all the things that usually code films like this go right out the window. no, they're just evil murdering bigots, and what's worse, cops on strike. clearly this is a warning of the potential abuse/failure of the state and a plea for tolerance, but that's undermined by the portrayal of its gay characters, who we either find lined up to be executed or cowering in the corner, perpetual victims. it's up to a straight white couple (maybe someone like you!), one that adopts sightless children (equating homosexuals with "powerless" charity cases?) at that, to rescue and protect them. i'd have liked this a little sleazier; it's not particularly graphic although it is rather admirably stone-faced in its violence. but the push-pull between execution and intent here is seriously fun, especially 30 years after it was made.

Lagrange point between TOKYO DRIFTER and WHY DON'T YOU PLAY IN HELL?

performance footage from the late 80's Gainesville, FL punk/metal scene stitched together with the story of a skater kid resurrected by a mad scientist after being accidentally murdered by some crustpunks who goes out for revenge with his board drilled to his foot. features stuff like a dude flipping TV channels, each blasting a different politician making a speech, while he giggles and repeats "I love the bug people!", and many of the characters hypnotically watch static-y footage of themselves on screens that pop up all over the movie. a great deal of it is "lit" by flashlight. pretty loose; there isn't a lot of control here, mostly a lot of "fuck it, that sounds like it would be funny", but i can only imagine what this might have felt like to someone in that scene at that time, and as a relic of a point at which a semi avant-garde, mostly non-narrative movie shot on video could be considered intrinsically an art piece it's resourceful and unpretentious.

gothed-out, shot-on-VHS, full-on microbudget shock, packed with so much DIY sex-and-gore it's amazing it even bothers with a plot. this is the kind of movie where Richard Kern shows up as a Satanist gangster who ties a girl to the ceiling, has sex with her, murders her, and then not two screen minutes later she comes back as a ghost and rips his guts out after shoving her fist up his ass.

WE AWAIT (1996)
sort of like if THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE was shot on Hi8 by a politically-inclined hippie pervert when he was really worked up about the evils of organized religion and "conformity" or whatever. lots of scary music over shots of televangelists. then there's a part where this lady (played by a performance artist called "Simone 3rd Arm") goes after a dude's cock with literally a pair of pliers and a blowtorch while he moans "I'm a dinosaur...I'm a dinosaur!"
and Giant Naked Fat Jesus. highly recommended.

one of the most repellent pinkus i've ever encountered, which if you know the genre is no mean trick (and a ringing endorsement). makes even hypersleaze like BAMBOO HOUSE OF DOLLS seem restrained and even a little bit elegant in its fury. the full-throated anger here is directed straight at postwar Japan and a level of institutionalized social depravity Suzuki sees as both inherited and tacitly condoned, something it equates with the same nationalistic blind evil that allowed for the Holocaust (of course it goes there, and yikes). it's just that the chosen delivery device for that rage is a nearly non-stop catalog of pure misogyny and exploitation; rape, rope bondage, torture, murder, necrophilia, incest, and even a dash of watersports and bestiality. that these elements are both condemned and luxuriated in creates a level of dissonance a dyed-in-the-wool exploitationist like myself rarely even hopes for. like if SALO actually got off on it. i'd say careful what you wish for but that would be pure hypocrisy.

"Hell, that's the same damn hippies we locked up last week! Get the shotgun."
a little googling reveals that this may have been inspired by an actual event wherein a couple of good ol' country boys just crazy enough to try flattened out 1000 yards of Georgia mountain and managed to put a DC-4 down on it.
anyways it's outstanding regional hicksploitation, very tasty, about two brothers named Oosh and Doosh just tryna haul some burlap sacks of bud for bossman Mr. King. then they get in dutch with the mob and decide to try ripping off an armored car, and that's before the attempted landing of the titular aircraft. most of the runtime is made up of a series of relatively audacious car chases featuring gags like a Winnebago roof getting torn off by a jackknifed 18-wheeler or a drunk redneck sleeping it off in the back of a double-wide prefab house on a flatbed truck getting chased by the Smokeys. oh and there's a helicopter prison break. and all of it's backed up by the claim that "No Stunt Men were Used in this Film", freighting this with the strange sensation that you're for real watching a bunch of hairy stoned-out yokels actually smashing the shit out of each other on some backwoods asphalt.
a movie like this was born for about 30 people, and thank Christ i'm one of them.

James Joyce's John Le Carre's POINT BLANK, featuring Lee Van Cleef and Patrick McGoohan having a showdown in a boobytrapped house.

rare Euro-War jam not about soldiers or mercenaries but ostensible freedom fighters. leave it to a thoroughly cynical Margheriti, though, to make his heroes ultra-leftist paramilitaries waging asymmetrical warfare against Klaus Kinski and a likely CIA-backed narcoregime. the "good guys" plan to shoot down a passenger plane in one of the most spectacular miniature sequences i've ever seen.

"Why don't they try to learn what happens inside? That's where the damage is done."

a royal doctor must have sex with all of a recently deceased Shogun's former concubines, searching for the one that "emits a musky scent in ecstasy" because she might be pregnant and the child must be aborted for political purposes. the pinku setup is an excuse for a detailed melodrama about the life and strictly organized rituals of these harem women who were viewed as nothing but property. gauzy soft focus softcore scenes eventually give way to more stylized sequences that resemble nothing so much as the video for The Vapors' "Turning Japanese". pretty light on the sleaze for Suzuki but still plenty angry.

this reminded me a lot of an old Looney Tunes where Porky has a gangster doppelgänger. maybe a Tashlin? not sure if it came before or after this but clearly one influenced the other. anyway Robinson is predictably fantastic, and also yay Jean Arthur.
aside from the movie being generally delightful, what i personally found most fascinating here was the effects work. Ford employs a nearly flawless combination of simple shot/reverse shot editing, body doubling, split screen composites and front projection to achieve the twinning of Edward G. Robinson. there's even a wide shot, both twins on either side, with a mirror straight in the center of the frame just next to the composite seam, just to sell the illusion that much more. also pretty amazing is a shot of Robinson and his double both reflected in a mirror, before the camera pulls back to have Robinson enter the foreground while he, his reflection, and the double's reflection all remain in focus in the mirror. at first i thought there must have been a hole in the wall instead of a mirror, but realized eventually that there must have been a projection screen behind Robinson and the camera, with the mirror reflecting both. really jawdropping stuff.

pretty delightful. as a picture of a marriage i think i prefer it to THE QUIET MAN -- Power and O'Hara seem more like partners and, speaking only for myself, their harmony (and frequent frustration) is simply more satisfying. family life, life in matrimony and life in the military are all careers, institutions built on tradition, discipline and trust, fittingly and unreservedly revered by Ford.
(note: i wish i'd had the foresight to double feature this with Ferrara's BODY SNATCHERS a few nights ago. polar opposites that absolutely talk to each other)

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