Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '85 - Everett Jones ""

Monday, April 13, 2015

Underrated '85 - Everett Jones

Everett is an avid movie watcher and user of Letterboxd like myself - follow him there: http://letterboxd.com/everettjones/ - I've gotten many good film recs this way. Here's his great Underrated Dramas list from 2012: http://rupertpupkinspeaks.blogspot.com/2013/07/favorite-underrated-dramas-everett-jones.html

And here's his equally cool Underrated Horror list from 2012:
http://rupertpupkinspeaks.blogspot.com/2013/10/favorite-underrated-horror-everett-jones.html
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Colonel Redl (1985; Istvan Szabo)
A costume drama about Old, pre-World War I Europe that’s closer in spirit to Brazil or Kubrick than, say, Doctor Zhivago. It’s the less successful follow-up to an arthouse hit that’s itself not as well-known as it was in 1981 when it won the Best Foreign Film Oscar, Istvan Szabo’s Mephisto. Where that movie focused on the Nazis’ familiar evil, this shows the less explored, in pop culture anyway, world of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Mephisto’s lead, Klaus Maria Brandauer (you know, the bad guy in the off-brand Bond Never Say Never Again) returns to play another chameleonic Faust figure, here a closeted, ethnic minority military officer who relentlessly rises in the ranks, to eventually found a sort of proto-NSA.

Dreamchild (1985; Gavin Millar)
I like both Disney’s cheery and Jan Svankmajer’s Gothy-creepy versions of Alice in Wonderland, but this film really is, to my mind, the ideal adaptation. Maybe that’s because Lewis Carroll’s narrative-all the better as a book for not bothering with any sense of drama or three-dimensional characters-is only here in snippets. Instead, this is the story of Alice Liddell, the “real” (according to this version, at least) Alice, seen both as an elderly lady visiting New York City in the 1930s, and as a child in the 1880s, when she was Charles Dodgson’s (Carroll’s) muse. On its side, the movie has both the great Ian Holm to play Dodgson-his performance goes a long way to making the, rather creepy to modern eyes, author sympathetic-and Jim Henson’s company to create the Wonderland creatures.

The Quiet Earth (1985; Geoff Murphy)
I’m told that Jane Fonda once expressed a wish (or, to be generous, a joke), after spending some time at then-husband Ted Turner’s Patagonian estate, that a nuclear war could wipe out the entirety of North America, thus leaving the couple in peace. That wish-to not have to share-probably partly explains the appeal of any post-apocalyptic story anywhere less grim than The Road. This Kiwi sci-fi movie is one of the best versions of that fantasy, beginning as a scientist awakens to discover the rest of the human race has vanished overnight.
Crime Wave (1985; John Paisz)
A genuinely oddball, sui generis little film that’s like a Canadian answer to David Lynch or the Coen Brothers (who, confusingly, wrote a movie of nearly the same name for Sam Raimi the same year): midcentury-steeped pop surrealism. Like Lynch (maybe not the Coens) it’s as sincere as it is twisted. Writer-director John Paisz also stars, as aspiring “color crime film” director Steven Penny, who lives in the attic of young narrator Kim’s (real-life future anchorwoman Eva Kovacs) parents’ house. He’s as innocent as H.I. McDonough or Jeffrey Beaumont, with dreams just as twisted, this blankly sweet dreamer’s imagined movies (he can always write the beginning and end, but never the middle) always turning out to be lurid and blood-soaked, even fascistic. At the risk of blaspheming, I think this faux-naive Canadian cult movie is far more watchable than Guy Maddin’s, yet it’s much harder to see than his, briefly available on Redbox’s short-lived streaming service, but now back in legal limbo.

Phenomena (1985; Dario Argento)
While fairly popular among Argento movies, this film is still, in my opinion, underrated amidst his work. It’s at least my favorite of his ‘80s films. It does lack the J&B-soaked flavor of the ‘70s work, not to mention a full-fledged Ennio Morricone or Goblin score. Without a larger genre film industry surrounding him-like it did in the ‘70s-Argento seems liberated to be even more fully himself. At least going by on the evidence of the truly bonkers plot, in which the heroine’s ability to command legions of insects with her mind isn’t even the most outlandish thing on hand. I love that uninhibited, direct-access-to-the-unconscious quality to his work, while readily acknowledging it seems inextricably linked to an inability to create convincing dialogue or characters. That said, Donald Pleasance, as the friendly neighborhood Scottish entomologist, gives one of the more humanlike performances in any Argento movie. And the finale, not always the strongest point in his films, is one of my favorite of his-it has the dark fairytale quality other filmmakers have aimed at or talked about but rarely grasped.

3 comments:

highwayknees said...

Rupert,
I'm curious about the main pic under the "Underrated '85-Everett Jones" where the bald man in the dress with the shotgun is sitting in a chair. What film is that from? I don't recognize the actor or situation at all?

Thanks for your response...
R.H.

Rupert Pupkin said...

RH - it's a shot from THE QUIET EARTH (I'm pretty sure).

joestemme said...

COLONOL REDL would likely make my retrospective Top 10 of 1985. Superb film by a fine director.
THE QUIET EARTH still holds up. I saw it in theaters when it came out and then caught up with a 35mm print at a revival screening a year or so ago. Still, one of the best 'end of the world' scenarios on film.