Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2018 - Lars Nilsen ""

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Film Discoveries of 2018 - 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 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/

Here's Lars List from last year:

http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2018/01/film-discoveries-of-2017-lars-nilsen.html

And the year before:

http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2016/12/film-discoveries-of-2016-lars-nilsen.html


THE TAMARIND SEED (1974)
After his expensive musical (and legit masterpiece) DARLING LILI failed at the box office, Blake Edwards wandered in the wilderness for a few years, making interesting flops, before he had to retreat to the safety of the PINK PANTHER movies again. This was the last of his so-called misfires during that period, and, no surprise, it's pretty interesting. Julie Andrews and Omar Sharif have chemistry together and they make this gorgeous piece of paperback espionage pulp feel substantial. Andrews, particularly when she essays risk-taking roles like this one, has steadily become one of my very favorites.
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THE RITE (1969)
AT AFS, we did a Bergman centennial series called "The Darkness" focusing on his most existentially despairing films. Brian Belovarac of Janus Films suggested that we might add this one to the series so I checked it out, and we did. It's the story of an inquisition, in modern times, of a trio of theatrical performers by a petty bureaucrat. At first, he holds the floor, and, with governmental precision, he makes inquiries about their morality, sources of wealth, and sexual histories. Then they are called upon to re-enact the "obscene" performance that landed them in trouble in the official's chamber. It's pretty uncompromising, and pretty purgative. Bergman must have been completely fed up with censors at this point, and he makes it plainly clear.
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UNDERGROUND (1995)
Kusturica's almost unbelievably vast epic of the history of Yugoslavia and its constituent nations during and after WWII is violent, funny, heartbreaking and triumphant. As irreverent as a Warner Brothers cartoon and as perceptive in small details as a Fassbinder melodrama, it's really like no other movie. Most incredibly, it was made during the war that tore the nation apart. I have to respect a filmmaker who can make a movie with SCOPE, and this is that movie.
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THE HURRICANE (1937)
Grumpy, handkerchief-chewing, eye-patch wearing old John Ford could be a terror to work with, as any number of sources corroborate. He was also one of the greatest poets the screen has ever known. This film, which was a big hit, but is now considered a minor Ford, doesn't feel all that minor as a work of Hollywood craft. We know it's hokum at its base level, but Ford transmutes it all into such beautiful compositions and uses the scenery to such great effect that we can hardly mind too much. And when Ford sets out to show you a hurricane, you better believe he is going to show you a Hurricane.
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THE MORE THE MERRIER (1949)
George Stevens' comedy about a wartime housing shortage in DC shows us the formation and maintenance of a cozy but otherwise unthinkable household consisting of single young woman Jean Arthur, who offers to take on a roomer, only to have an incorrigible old troublemaker Charles Coburn force his way into the room, and - the nerve of this guy - sublet one half of the room to a younger man, played by Joel McCrea. You might guess where it goes from there but you'll only be half-right, and most of the fun is in the performances, especially Jean Arthur, who was never lovelier or better.
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SALOME (1922)
A great team of very smart people put together a series of restorations that have been collected into a Blu-Ray set called PIONEERS: FIRST WOMEN FILMMAKERS. One of the films to be found in this really interesting batch is this one, made by stage star Alla Nazimova in 1922 with her husband Charles Bryant. I have heard it is Kenneth Anger's favorite film, and this will surprise no one who sees it. Baroque, beautifully designed, and extraordinarily transgressive in matters of gender and sexual orientation, it still manages to surprise audiences today.
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8 MILLION WAYS TO DIE (1986)
It's easy to tell that this late Hal Ashby movie was a troubled production. It has all the neon-noir touches of a film like TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA, but something is slightly off about it. It lacks cohesiveness, and it sometimes feels that the actors are just messing around. After a while, this becomes an asset. The creeping tone of ridiculousness becomes unmissable by the time Jeff Bridges and Andy Garcia have a tense standoff over a pair of snow cones. Nothing works here, but somehow it all does. I can't explain it. I won't try.
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RUBY (1977)
I had always avoided this, even though I love Curtis Harrington because I heard it was just a clumsy EXORCIST ripoff. Partly true, but what a movie. Piper Laurie goes all out in this as a former gang moll who owns a drive in theater (and a mansion on a hill overlooking the theater) who has a possessed daughter. It's pretty discontinuous, and pretty baroque, but I liked it a lot. With Stuart Whitman, of course.
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HAVING WONDERFUL CRIME (1945)
This comedy/mystery just hit me the right way. It's a formula movie but the formula gets a little extra help from the cast, particularly Carole Landis, who should have been a bigger star. Pat O'Brien, no longer a big star by the time this was made, is still very good at playing the exasperated tough guy, whose friends Landis and George Murphy blithely drag him through inconvenience after inconvenience.
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CAPTAIN CELLULOID VS. THE FILM PIRATES (1966)
This is something very special - a pitch-perfect parody of classic serials made by a team of film collectors and scholars, including the legendary William K. Everson and Alan G. Barbour. It's about a masked bad guy, the master duper, who, along with his henchmen, the film pirates, is making duplicate negatives of rare films (like Von Stroheim's complete GREED), and using them to corner the film market. But don't worry, Captain Celluloid and his team, the Classic Film Society, are on the case. Tremendously well done. These filmmakers have watched a lot of Republic serials.
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