Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '65 - Lars Nilsen ""

Monday, June 22, 2015

Underrated '65 - Lars Nilsen

Lars is a programmer at Austin Film Society and there he curates repertory series in addition to midnight movies, new releases, independent films and classics. The bottom line though is that Lars is a man who has really immersed himself in interesting and offbeat cinema and has a lot to offer even the most dedicated cinephile as far as recommendations go.
Lars is on Twitter @thelarsnilsen:
The Austin Film Society can be found here:
http://www.austinfilm.org
and Lars excellent AFS Viewfinders Facebook group can be found here:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/197585777057317/
Check out his recent Underrated Action list here:
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2014/08/underrated-actionadventure-lars-nilsen.html
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I think these are films that most people know about and even have a certain amount of esteem, but I really wonder why, in the case of VIVA MARIA, THE LOVED ONE, and THE SARAGOSSA MANUSCRIPT especially, people aren’t freaking out about these movies all the time. ‘65 was a GREAT year, and a really transitional one. These films all reflect that.


VIVA MARIA (1965; Louis Malle)
Every movie shot by Henri DecaĆ« is worth seeing. Bardot is at her most beautiful here as an Irish revolutionary, raised as a demolition expert by her revolutionary bomb-thrower father, who takes it on the lam and hides out in a traveling circus, which is making its way through an unnamed tropical republic during a revolt. She is taken in by Jeanne Moreau and the two alternate between challenging the morality of the populace with their very popular provocative sideshow act, and committing acts of revolution for love and freedom. Beautiful, funny (in a Warner Brothers cartoon kind of way), and escapist. This is worth a summer night, and that’s a big statement.


THE LOVED ONE (1965; Tony Richardson)
Another star cinematographer turn. Haskell Wexler’s photography really pushes this L.A. satire into high art territory. Adapted by Christopher Isherwood and Terry Southern (!!!) from Evelyn Waugh’s novel, this film shows us the most vulgar of vulgar Americans through the eyes of a young, stupid and aimless British man (Robert Morse) who moves in with his stiff-upper lip relative (John Gielgud). Full of over-the-top satire and, as noted above, next-level photography. Every frame is a work of art. With Jonathan Winters playing multiple parts, the touchingly vulnerable Anjanette Comer and an unforgettable, purgative, ranting performance from Rod Steiger as amorous embalmer Mr. Joyboy.


BAD GIRLS GO TO HELL (1965; Doris Wishman)
All the Doris Wishman black and white films are like photo essays of another forever-lost time and place. The high contrast interiors, the shots of walking feet, the disembodied dialogue. Watching a Doris film is like turning page after page of an imaginary Diane Arbus book documenting the struggles of a young woman in the world of plaid-suited, cigar smoking, completely disgusting men. This is my favorite of her films, and a good place to start.


SARAGOSSA MANUSCRIPT (1965; Wojciech Has)
Why this movie isn’t talked about obsessively by every film nut in the world I will never know. It’s technically astonishing, narratively unique and full of advanced, Eastern European humor and taboo-smashery. Based on a novel by Count Jan Potocki, the film is continually dipping into rabbit holes, and then into sub-rabbit holes, and sub-sub rabbit holes. It’s the kind of movie where a character begins telling a story and as the film presents a dramatization of that story, a character within the story pulls a book off the shelf and begins reading and the film goes into that narrative, then a character in that book has a dream sequence, etc. etc. etc. for the duration of the film. Amazing.


THE GREAT RACE (1965; Blake Edwards)
Constructed to look and feel like a silent serial, though in vivid color, this movie a strangely comforting and euphoric effect. It is deliberately artificial down to every detail. We feel like we’re watching the whole thing unfold in dollhouse scale, like a Rankin Bass Christmas special. With Tony Curtis as the handsome resourceful lead who races around the world, Natalie Wood, with her enormous eyes, as the suffragette reporter who tags along and Jack Lemmon as the Snidely Whiplash-style villain. He may actually say “Curses, Foiled Again!” at one point. Also, Keenan Wynn plays the super-strong Man Friday to Curtis. Peter Falk plays Lemmon's little homey. Blake Edwards has the touch for this sort of thing and, as in most of Edwards’ films, Henry Mancini takes MVP honors. Mancini’s scores for Edwards are major attractions - they underpin the whole show and are every bit as important as whatever is unfolding on screen.


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