Justin Bozung is a film writer, researcher and part-time archivist. He has written for such print publications as Fangoria, Whoa, Bijou, Phantom Of The Movies' Videoscope and Shock Cinema. He is co-author of the upcoming Studies In The Horror Film: Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (Centipede Press; March 2015), and is currently working with the estate of Pulitzer Prize winning writer Norman Mailer on a volume dedicated to his avant-garde films of the '60s as well as the official biography of filmmaker Frank Perry. Please visit his official website: JustinBozung.net
Not holding myself to any sort of rules here, 2014 was a wonderful year for film. The sure bevy of new films that hit theaters and VOD this year, for me, made 2014 the best year for film that I can remember. We saw new films released by Alejandro Jodorowosky, Matthew Barney, Luc Besson, David Cronenberg, Abel Ferrera, Gregg Araki, Pedro Almodovar...the list goes on and on.
With that said and those seen, I was so damn busy this year on various book/magazine projects that I really wasn't able to get through more than just a handful of older stuff; films that Brian Saur would equate as those belonging, but only slightly, to his moniker of "Film Discoveries".
Unreleased to date, I managed to receive a screener from filmmaker Max Myers in support of an interview I was doing with Shock Cinema magazine with actor Scott Wilson. Wilson, here, plays "Jimmy Ray Stevens", a former rockabilly superstar who after the death of his brother drifts out of the music business and into heavy drink--blaming himself for decades for the incident. For sure, Scott Wilson's finest performance to date, shame that the film hasn't seen a release. The film has a low-budget vibe, but damn, if you want to see some serious acting chops--then you need to contact Max Myers for a copy.
Yes, a full length documentary about the misunderstood Wild Man Fischer. If you're not familiar with Fischer, then it's likely that you're not a fan of Frank Zappa and you probably won't ever be a fan of Fischer's music either, yet, this portrait of Fischer--who, in the '60s was discovered by Zappa singing for pennies on the streets of Los Angeles covers his life--from his empathic upbringing to his time with Zappa, his falling out with the great guitar player--to his final days living in utter squaler on and off the streets. Fischer was borderline insane, schziophrenic, bi-polar, nutzoid--but a genius? You can decide. Fischer makes someone like Wesley Willis look like Brian Wilson. Heartbreaking stuff.
Produced by Martin Scorsese, P&B GO TO THE MOVIES should be required viewing. In 60 minutes, you'll explore the relationship between Cubist painters Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, but also learn and confer that the early cinema was such that it had a major influence on the paintings of the duo...It's only recently, in the aftermath of the release of this film that Picasso scholars have begun to do significant research into the discovery of filmic shapes and symbols and how they appear in the painters work. An example: a film camera body appears in the shape of a torso in a women in various Picasso works post 1906....But also how the work of the Cubists, in turn, influenced cinema too.
For everyone who has ever laughed at a film like ZONTAR, THE THING FROM VENUS...Larry Buchanan was a misunderstood auteur. What a filmmaker! I believe, it was in 2013, here on Brian's blog that I wrote of my obsessive love and admiration for Larry Buchanan's 1989 redo of his 1976 Marilyn Monroe film, GOODBYE NORMA JEAN as GOODNIGHT, SWEET MARILYN--and his follow-up DOWN ON US is yet another utter masterpiece of pop culture/celebrity conspiracy and mythos. Whereas in his Marilyn films--Buchanan explores the possible conspiracies surrounding the death of Marilyn Monroe--here he does the same but looks at the lives of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison. This is a brilliant film. It's gonna be tough for many out there who might be reading this to transcend and break through their subjective natures and belief systems regarding their definitions of what cinema is "supposed" to be, but if you allow this one to take hold--you'll discover an entire new world of cinema. Buchanan, with his "anything goes" ideaology throws reality out of the window, and puts these rock icons into a mythical world where he has free reign over them to do anything he wishes. He writes songs for them in which they were in reality never connected to. He transcends music genres and era for them to work in. He takes pride in shifting away from any notion of reality or realism. This is a special world that you're asked to exist in, and boy, is it something wonderful.
The second to last film by the great, yet still, underrated auteur Frank Perry. COMPROMISING POSITIONS is a light-hearted revisionist film noir set on Long Island. It features actress Susan Sarandon steeped in a Desperate Housewives-y like existential investigation as she plays a gumshoe on the hunt for the murderer of a sleazy and greasy dentist (Joe Montegna). Frank's work; his eariler films with ex-wife Eleanor Perry are regarded as his best, but as someone who has gotten to know Frank's work intimately over the last year as his official biographer, I can say that his post Eleanor films: PLAY IT AS IT LAYS, MAN ON A SWING, MOMMIE DEAREST, and 'DOC' etc., are really in need of a second look. COMPROMISING POSITIONS really plays outside-the-box. It's funny, very quirky, has some seriously brilliant film noir cinematography by the great Barry Sonnenfield (his first film), and a score by Brad Fiedel. From a novel by Susan Isaacs, this is a subdued and very subtle masterpiece. Don't allow it's slapsticky elements to confuse. Watch it a few times, because, while it is really quirky in places, there is a serious filmmaker at work here. It grows on you.
Writer/Director Calvin Lee Reeder just might be my favorite new filmmaker. He's like the second-coming of Jean Cocteau. While Cocteau's films aren't for all, especially those who think that a film isn't a film without a direct narrative--Reeder's THE OREGONIAN and his most recent effort THE RAMBLER (2013) are both epic Cocteauian forays into nightmares, purgatory, the psyche, existentialism and dream.
Directed by Polish filmmaker Krzystof Zanussi, QUIET SUN is an incredible and tender work that too like the above mentioned DON'T LET GO, features Scott Wilson. Wilson is ultra subdued and patient here as a American solider who falls in love with a Polish widow, played with wonder by Maja Komorowska. The two fall in love, but there, of course, is a great language barrier to overcome. Zanussi does something ingenius and that he refused to include subtitles in QUIET SUN. This allows for us, the audience, to fall in love with Komorowska just as Wilson's character "Norman" does. Wilson even sings in the film. The colors in the film evoke a deep melancholy, and the ending of QUIET SUN will leave you in tears and also a profound state of dreamy bliss with it's use of Monument Valley. Zanussi and Wilson went on to make another film afterward, 1997's OUR GOD'S BROTHER--but it's impossible to find. I'll search for it forever probably.
Joey Lauren Adams, yes, from DAZED AND CONFUSED and a handful of Kevin Smith's films, wrote and directed this wonderful little indie film with a big cast. Starring Ashley Judd, as a drunk who can't settle down--COME EARLY MORNING is great with it's novelistic turns and characters.
Ultra-dark Sundance favorite on the year of it's premiere about Jesco White, an Appalachian Mountain dancer who is smack in the middle of an existential battle within the self but also festering with the good of God and the evils of The Devil. Shot in a rich black and white, WHITE LIGHTNIN' is fuckin' cool. It's weird, dreamy, structured as if it were a film noir ala OUT OF THE PAST (1947). The main reason to check out WHITE LIGHTNIN' is because of the performance of Carrie Fisher. Yes, Princess Leia, who mostly--following THE BLUES BROTHERS (1980)and three STAR WARS films, and her writing of POSTCARDS ON THE EDGE (1990) has more or less be pigeon-holed into smaller character/supporting roles over the last 30 years--remember her in DROP DEAD FRED (1991)? Her work in WHITE LIGHTNIN' is fuggin' incredible. Fisher is a white-trash, mountain-dwelling-fuck-machine manipulator. Worth the price of admission alone.
I'm a sucker for anything Paul Morrissey. Love him or hate him or his films, most only know him for FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN or BLOOD FOR DRACULA, and while those films are staggering and ingenius works (often lauded as cult classics)--it's his post Warhol, post '60s --'80s gutter family trilogy that affords me the comfort of suggesting that the man is a genius. Morrissey is one of the strangest filmmakers to ever pick up a camera, deeming himself a ultra-conversative; a gentleman who floats in flames on the Right--Morrissey finds black death humor in the depressed, sleazy, drug-abused and derelict nastiness of the junkie huddles of the pre-cleaned Ed Koch New York City. My favorite films of his MIXED BLOOD (1984), FORTY-DEUCE (1982), HEAT (1972), and now MADAME WANGS--the film I had put off seeing until this year--are all about dysfunctional family units, those made naturally or self-constructed. Yet, all of his films offer a deep-rooted morality at their center as well. These five films--post Warhol era--are all black in humor, almost plot-less, novelistic, and fugg...all masterpieces.