Saturday, August 16, 2014

700. L'Argent/Money (1983)


Running Time: 83 minutes
Directed By: Robert Bresson
Written By: Robert Bresson, from the short story Faux billet by Leo Tolstoy
Main Cast: Christian Patey, Vincent Risterucci, Caroline Lang, Sylvie Van den Elsen, Michel Briguet
Click here to view the trailer

BRESSON WEEK: CHAPTER FOUR

So I watched this on Thursday morning and am FINALLY getting here to write the review. I ended up spending the rest of Thursday hanging out with my wife, watching Oz and such and then came down with a pretty nasty migraine on Friday, so was in no shape for staring at laptop screens and trying to mesh together sentences. This is definitely the longest I've ever waited in between viewing and reviewing, so bear with me if I'm sketchy with my thoughts.


The film begins with a student entering his father's study to collect his weekly allowance. He tries to get a few more dollars out of him that what he normally is given, but is promptly shot down. When he goes to bitch about the insufficient funds to his school chum, the chum slips him forged note and tells him the difference is negligible. He passes the forged note in a photo shop when purchasing a frame and we're done with them. Sticking with the photo shop crew, however, the one who accepted the note is reprimanded for taking it, but bounces back by reminding the owner that he accepted two only the week prior. The owner decides to take matters into his own hands and just pass the notes along to some other unsuspecting rube. The rube comes in the form of a plumber, Yvon (Patey) who does some work at the photo shop and is paid with the three forged notes that the shop has accepted in the past week. The plumber is none the wiser and goes along his merry way, stopping by a restaurant to grab some lunch. When he tries to pass the notes along, however, the restaurant owner spots them as forges and declines them, phoning the police in the process. Yvon is eventually released by the authorities, but is fired from his job. Now, needing money, Yvon goes to a friend for help. The friend can't give Yvon any dough, but tells him of plans to rob a bank and offers him a spot as the getaway driver with a dividend to be paid to Yvon if they're successful - he accepts. Basically it turns into a whole snowball effect from this point on and I've probably said too much already.

SPOILER ALERT!


For those of you who stuck with me past the break, let's keep going. I realize you already know the rest of the plot if you've decided to read past "SPOILER ALERT", but I want to make a point, so bear with me. So the bank robbery turns out to be unsuccessful, Yvon is caught by police and put in prison for his crimes. While in prison, his wife writes him and tells him that she's taking their child and moving on with her life and that she'll be Splitsville by the time he's released. He basically stumbles into a depression (and for good reason) until he's released. Upon his release he stalks an elderly woman, whom he notices outside the bank, stuffing many large bills into her handbag, follows her home and before he can knock her off, is taken by her kindness. She offers him something to eat and a place to stay and for a while, the two get along. It all ends up, however, with him axing her and her entire family while they sleep, going back into town (the woman lived out in the boonies), finding a police officer, confessing and being re-arrested. So my point is, I was with this movie right up until the point that he killed the woman and her family. The film was telling a pretty basic concept: look at what this one forged note did to this poor, unsuspecting man's life. He loses his job, loses his family, loses his freedom, loses everything and all because this spoiled, punk kid didn't have a few more dollars in his pocket. It all made sense and despite it's outrageous lack of dialogue, wasn't a bad little film. Then we go to the murder angle and it kind of all falls apart. Yvon having anything to do with the elderly woman, let along murdering her, is something he has control of, unlike the jailing and the loss of his family which were completely out of his control. I mean, did the guy just go so completely mad from being locked up for this amount of time that he felt the need to kill? Or am I just totally missing one of Bresson's little hidden messages, symbols or meanings? Probably the latter. Either way, it was kind of a goofy second half and it really took me out of the movie.


And what about the spectacular problem Bresson has with dialogue interaction between his characters? The characters in this film were so quiet that they barely had any personality and could barely be called characters - I'd rather call them place holders for the plot to unfold. In earlier films (the ones I watched last week) Bresson would use narration as a way to get his thoughts across, but in L'Argent, there is no narration and thus, for a lot of the movie, we're left to simply view actions as opposed to listening to interactions. I'm such a dialogue junkie when it comes to movies that I find it really hard to get into his movies with this complete lack of character exchanges. It was one thing when it was narration, because at least that's something and he wrote it really well. But in L'Argent, there's a lot of dead air and I found my mind wondering a few times. The plot was decent enough, however, that I found it relatively easy to bring my concentration back to the picture and all in all it wasn't a bad day at the movies. Had there been a lot more dialogue and a better explanation as to why Yvon took the path he did, post-jail, then this could've been a big time contender for the next TOP 20. As it is call it an unlikely contender for the Ten Worth Mentioning.

RATING: 6.5/10  I probably COULD go '7' if I was feeling a bit more generous, but '6.5' seems more proper. One Bresson picture left in THE BOOK, which I hope to tackle tomorrow night - Balthazar.

MOVIES WATCHED: 839
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 162

August 16. 2014  10:47pm

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

509. Five Easy Pieces (1970)


Running Time: 96 minutes
Directed By: Bob Rafelson
Written By: Carole Eastman, Bob Rafelson
Main Cast: Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, Susan Anspach, Lois Smith, Ralph Waite
Click here to view the trailer

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the passing of Robin Williams. I was never a huge fan of the comedian, but was still shocked and saddened to hear about his death. I can still remember being young and buying Mrs. Doubtfire when it was released on VHS. I bought it from a local supermarket that used to rent and sell tapes and remember bringing it home and watching it several times in the span of just a few days. To this day, my father will still watch the movie if he comes across it on TV. Anyway, he wasn't really my cup of tea when it came to comedy, but there were times, usually in films, when he really made me laugh. The thing that I'll remember him for though is his dramatic turns in films like Insomnia and One Hour Photo. There was something particularly creepy about Williams when he was asked to play a bad guy. Probably because we knew he wasn't really a bad guy and when he pretended to be, it made him all the more dastardly. Rest well Mr. Williams, I hope you've found the peace you were looking for. 

RUNAWAY 

I was doing so well too. I managed to stay up one work night and watch a movie, while I stayed up the following work night and wrote a review. Then my eyelids just couldn't take it anymore and the following three nights of my work week didn't go as planned and I got nothing accomplished. Oh well, I'm back now so let's not dawdle.


Jack Nicholson stars as Robert Dupea, an ex pianist who has traded in his privileged life to lead a blue collar one, taking residence in a trailer park with dim witted, waitress girlfriend Rayette (Black) and holding down a job working on an oil rig. He does the sorts of things that a lot of blue collars did during this time period - heads home after work to enjoy a bottle of beer and maybe a game or two of bowling with another couple and then back to the trailer park to relax while the girlfriend blares Tammy Wynette tunes (D-I-V-O-R-C-E and Stand By Your Man). When Robert learns from his sister Partita (Smith) that their father is ill, he decides to return home to Washington state, to the family and life that he abandoned so many years ago. After a tiff with Rayette about his leaving, he reluctantly invites her to tag along and she accepts. Along the way, the two meet up with two women who have wrecked their car and are headed for Alaska, whom they give a lift. This is also the point in the film where the famous "hold it between your knees" line comes in. Eventually the two make it to their destination and Robert asks (demands) Rayette stay holed up in a motel while he goes and feels out how things are at his former home. Once there, he finds that his father, having suffered two strokes, is basically a vegetable who can't communicate and probably doesn't even recognize Robert. In the meantime, he basically forgets about Rayette and becomes infatuated with Catherine (Anspach), a pianist who is engaged to his brother Carl (Waite). The two end up having an affair, right before Rayette takes it upon herself to arrive at the house - much to Robert's disapproval. 

SPOILER ALERT!


By the way, if you're married, be careful of the Tammy Wynette song D-I-V-O-R-C-E, as it is a contagious song that you might find yourself singing following the viewing of this movie. You wouldn't want your spouse thinking you're trying to drop them any hints. Seriously though, this is a really great movie produced at a time when so many talented people were making their names in Hollywood. Believe it or not, this is actually Nicholson's first starring role, notes THE BOOK, following his successful supporting job in Easy Rider. I loved Nicholson in this, as he proves that he's not just a name, he's a talent. It's a shame that at 77 years old, he's basically retired as an actor - his last film being some James L. Brooks venture that I hadn't even heard of until I looked it up a moment ago and prior to that The Bucket List, which I didn't care for at all. Anyway, he's great in this, realizing just who this character is and bringing just the right amount of snark to the role. Here we have a man who can't seem to fit in, like that last remaining puzzle piece that just doesn't have the right edges. We start the film with him already having run away from one life and we end the film with him running away from another.


I must note that I love the ending of this movie. I watched this with my wife and at the end, she noted how she couldn't blame him for leaving, that he'd obviously had it with Rayette - who wouldn't shut up and stop irritating him. Nicholson conveys that irritation so effectively, making me feel his frustrations and disappointment with his current life. We observe him throughout the film TRYING so hard to just make it work, but often slipping, yelling at Rayette and then trying to make it right again.

This is a real slice of life picture and has aged really well. It's just about a man trying to find his way, a very simple picture that I think is really easy to enjoy. I had seen this film once before and remembered liking it very well. I was coming off of a pretty vicious headache today and needed something that wasn't going to require a lot of thought and this was just what the doctor ordered, although in the end, I did find myself pondering this character quite a bit, so perhaps my plan backfired. Oh well. It was a fine day at the movies, one that both my wife and I enjoyed and this comes with an easy recommendation. 

RATING: 8/10  I'll get back to Bresson Week next, but I needed something to easy today, like I said. 

MOVIES WATCHED: 838
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 163

Note: I've decided to drop the monthly recap, as I'm having trouble finding the time to watch movies let alone finding the time to do the RECAP. I had a good run, going nearly four years with it, but in all honesty it's kind of a pointless article, as most of my opinions never change that drastically anyway and now that I have the Letterboxd account, you can always stay up to date on anything NON-BOOK that I'm watching. 

August 13, 2014  7:32pm

Friday, August 8, 2014

305. Un condamne a mort s'est echappe ou Le vent souffle ou il veut/A Man Escaped (1956)


Running Time: 99 minutes
Directed By: Robert Bresson
Written By: Robert Bresson, from memoir by Andre Devigny
Main Cast: Francois Leterrier, Charles Le Clainche, Roland Monod, Maurice Beerblock, Jacques Ertaud
Click here to view the trailer

BRESSON WEEK: CHAPTER THREE

Hey, what do ya' know - I was able to keep my eyes open long enough tonight to swing in and pound out the review for A Man Escaped, the third in a five film salute to Robert Bresson. Being a prison escape movie, this was a shoo in to be a hit with me and it didn't disappoint.


Not a whole lot to tell, plot wise, as the film is a minimalist fans' wet dream, as we're treated to a collection of shots featuring our main character in his cell, chipping away and plotting escape plans. The whole thing takes place in a Nazi prison camp, smack dab in the middle of WWII. We start out with prisoner Fontaine (Leterrier) being transported, via car, to the camp. He eases his hand closer and closer to the door handle and at the opportune time (or what he thinks is an opportune time) he lifts the latch and makes a run for it. He's swiftly caught and taken to the camp, where he's treated to a small, concrete cell, only a few feet by a few feet. He's called courage incarnate and immediately starts trying to come up with ways to escape his captors. He makes friends with a few fellow prisoners, some of whom he can see from his window when they walk the courtyard, others by tapping adjoining walls and communicating through those taps. Eventually, he's transported to a different cell and it's there where he sees major opportunity for escape, noticing that the door to his cell (a wooden door composed of several slats) could be easily dismantled and slipped through, probably even in a way where it could go unnoticed while he worked on it. He begins his project, stealing a spoon and turning it into a chisel by sanding it down against the concrete floor of his cell. He uses the chisel to grind away at the creases between the wooden door slats and slip them out of place. It takes months, but at least knowing he'll soon be free is incentive to keep going

SPOILER ALERT!


It probably didn't hurt that my wife and I are still truckin' away on Oz, therefore I've been all hopped up on prison fiction anyway. However I'm such a sucker for prison stuff that it never takes much anyway to win me over. Add to that the fact that I'm an even bigger sucker for escape flicks and this one was a sure fire winner right out of the gate. I have to admit though, that after watching those first two Bresson films, I was a little skeptical. Sure Pickpocket was just fine, but Diary of a Country Priest was downright dull and there was always the chance that Bresson could go extra dull for this one. I'm for minimalist filmmaking however and this was almost as minimal as it gets: unprofessional actors, more narration than actual character to character dialogue and long shots of simply the main character trying to spoon his way out of a solid concrete Nazi prison camp. Sure, it's no Le Trou, which gets even more intricate when it comes to elaborate escape plans, but it was a damn good movie and one that I'd be willing to watch over and over again.

I will say however that the whole "this story has been told exactly as it happened" thing kind of came back to bite them on the butt, don't you think? I mean, hey, I'm all for sticking to the source material, but if ever there was a time to get just a touch creative with a little dramatization, I think it would've worked wonders here and turned this '8/10' into an EASY '10/10'. The book cites suspense rivaling that of Hitchcock, yet the only time I was really edge of my seat, in a Hitchcockian state was 1) when he was filing against the door and it was making that nails on a chalkboard sound and 2) during the actual escape. Other than that, we're pretty much given enough clues to know that he's not going to get caught and it's pretty much established that if he does, he'll get shot on the spot, thus leaving us sans main character. A little injection of suspense here and there - just a touch more - could've done this movie well. I also wasn't crazy about the inclusion of the roommate. Those who read my Treasure of the Sierra Madre review will recall my disapproval when extra characters are introduced, outside of the original three and it was the same thing here, only moreso. They had us stuck in a room with Fontaine for OVER an hour and then popped some other guy on us. I took it as an intrusion between myself and the character of Fontaine and I didn't want to be intruded on. Is that crazy or does that make sense to you all?


There was also just too much time between the time Fontaine finished making all of his hooks and ropes and the actual escape. There's like a twenty minute gap where he shoots the shit with his new cell mate and internally struggles with the decision to tell him about the escape plan or kill him. I wish they could've wrapped that up a bit quicker. I found it unbelievable that this guy who took so many risks in establishing his escape plan would then decide that he didn't want to do it right away - always putting it off until the next night and then the next. Of course, if that's how it actually went down, then what can you say, but again I say a spoonful of dramatization could've only help,

Anyway I'm just picking on something that I really liked - you know the old saying, "Why do we always hurt the ones we love"? Well it also applies to movies. I'm always a bit harder on things I liked because I'm more able to see the possibilities. With films I hated, I'm blind to the possibilities because I just don't care. This is a top notch prison escape movie and one that both Bresson fans and those who are strangers to Bresson will love, I'm sure. Just remember, the film DEMANDS a patient viewer.

RATING: 8.5/10  I can't go whole hog because of the reasons I mentioned, but still damn good and an easy contender for the TOP 20. I was literally falling asleep at the desk there a few times, so if there's a lot of typos or things that don't make sense, forgive me.

MOVIES WATCHED: 837
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 164

August 8. 2014  10:44pm

Thursday, August 7, 2014

2014 FRIGHTFEST

It's nearly that time of year again when I have a desire to try and spook myself along with the rest of the world. Last year, I turned to you, the readers of the blog, to help me out with a few suggestions to accompany my own movies. Remember, this has nothing to do with THE BOOK, as I've pretty much dried up all of the horrors from there and now take the opportunity ever year to write about some NON-BOOK stuff. I have a few ideas of my own, including a possible SIN OF OMISSION, but I like to mix it up a little and see some stuff that you guys suggest.

Here's what I'm thinking so far and remember, nothing is set in stone yet.

*Tremors
*Graveyard Shift
*The Amityville Horror (original)
*When a Stranger Calls (original)

That's really it. I'm open to any and all suggestions, so let them fly. I'd prefer to keep it to stuff that I've never seen, but if someone has a deep desire to see me review something that I've already seen (which I doubt) then I'll gladly make exceptions. Of course, you guys won't necessarily know what I have and haven't seen, so that really doesn't matter anyway. If you want to throw some horrors a me, just leave a comment below. I only ask that they be horror films or at least thrillers/suspense - something that would work well with Halloween, which is when FRIGHTFEST will take place.

Thanks!

August 7, 2014  8:52pm

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

238. Journal d'un cure de campagne/Diary of a Country Priest (1951)


Running Time: 115 minutes
Directed By: Robert Bresson
Written By: Robert Bresson, from novel by Georges Bernanos
Main Cast: Claude Laydu, Jean Riveyre, Adrien Borel, Rachel Berendt, Nicole Maurey
Click here to view the trailer

BRESSON WEEK: CHAPTER TWO

I made the decision today that August is going to be a boom month for the blog. I've been really slacking since my return - sure I've been promoted at work, which means a bit more stress, but honestly the work load isn't that much more than what I used to deal with when banging out twenty - thirty reviews a month. Of course, I can only do what my eyelids will allow and my primetime to bang out watching movies/writing reviews is after my wife goes to bed, which usually isn't until like 9:30 - 10:00. Since I'm in bed by midnight, that gives me about two hours a night to get crackin'. Hopefully I can start making some serious progress...Anyway, BRESSON WEEK rolls on with Diary of a Country Priest.


If you've ever heard Scorsese give an in-depth interview, then you've probably heard him talk about this movie, which he's said has had a major impact on Taxi Driver. I really don't see the connection between the two films, but if this film had something to do with that masterpiece, then that pretty much automatically makes it a "must see", doesn't it? The film takes place in the country (imagine that) and picks up when a priest (Laydu) arrives at his new parish in the small village of Ambricourt. We get most of the information we need from his journal entries and learn right away that he's ill - constantly scrawling in his diary complaints of a sometimes unbearable stomach ache. He notes that the only thing he can eat that doesn't further upset his stomach is pieces of bread soaked in wine. During the days he teaches an all girl class the ins and outs of Catholicism and quizzes them on things like the Eucharist and sometimes he travels to a nearby town of Torcy to visit with another, older priest. After a while, he builds a relationship with a family, who's Countess has lost her faith in God following the death of her young son. During a rabid conversation, a back and forth, the priest finally makes the Countess see the error of her thinking and restores her faith - a victory for the priest who has had nothing but troubles and self doubt since arriving in the country. The following night, the Countess dies, sending the priest whirling back into a sort of depression.

SPOILER ALERT!


What is it with these agnostic directors who feel the need to constantly explore religion, even though they're famous for having nothing to do with religion in their personal lives? I mean, if I were an atheist and a filmmaker too, I certainly wouldn't be making films about Catholic priests and such. However, I am kind of a sucker for the faithless priest storyline (which is best told by an atheist - see Winter Light) yet that's not exactly what this is. Sure, the priest of Ambricourt has his moments of self doubt, but it's never really established as to whether he completely loses his faith or only falters - there's no clues to 100% confirm either hypothesis. I started out kind of liking this one: a priest arrives in the country to take the reigns of a new parish. We're getting tons of narration, which is superbly written (be it from the source material or an addendum from Bresson) and perfectly spoken by Laydu. I seem to recall speaking negatively recently about excessive narration (in fact, I believe it was with a Scorsese picture. Is this where he got his penchant for narration - from Bresson?), however with Bresson, he really makes the narration work better than if the actors were actually speaking. In fact, with Diary of a Country Priest I looked forward to the narration parts and after a while, began to dread the scenes that required actual acting. Not that the acting was bad, though.


I was with this one right up until about the forty minute mark and then I started to slip out from between it's grasp. I just lost touch with all of the characters and realized that the story had really gone as far as it was going to go. I mean, nothing REALLY happens, does it? We're just given this priest who spends his final days on this countryside, being the best that he can be and speaking his last words - "What does it matter - all is grace". What does that mean? Did he finally realize with his dying breath that God doesn't exist or that it doesn't matter if he exists or doesn't exist? "It doesn't matter if he exists or not, all is grace either way"? Perhaps or perhaps I'm way off - who knows. I can say, I really didn't have enough of an attachment to the movie to start making guesses as to what the final lines mean, just like I don't have enough of an attachment to Citizen Kane to make guesses as to what Rosebud means, same thing. I tried really hard with this one and I wanted to like it, I really did. Ultimately, however, I just slipped away and at a certain point, the film lost me and I can't even go so far as to call it average.

RATING: 4.5/10  Here's hoping that "A Man Escaped" is everything I want it to be and blows both this and Pickpocket out of the water. Why do I have this feeling that I'm going to get burned, though?

MOVIES WATCHED: 836
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 165

August 6, 2014  10:50pm

350. PICKPOCKET (1959)


Running Time: 75 minutes
Directed By: Robert Bresson
Written By: Robert Bresson
Main Cast: Martin LaSalle, Marika Green, Jean Pelegri, Dolly Scal, Pierre Leymarie
Click here to view the trailer

BRESSON WEEK: CHAPTER ONE

I have to say, I've been looking forward to these Robert Bresson films for a while now. I've always heard great things about Pickpocket and have even heard Martin Scorsese gush about Diary of a Country Priest. The other day, however, I was warned by Ray (frequent commenter) that these films are not so easy and to be cautious when dealing with Bresson. I'll tread lightly, in hopes that at least one of them wows me. For the record, I'll be moving in random order, instead of the usual chronological order. First up: Pickpocket.


The title pretty much outlines the plot synopsis as the movie is basically just about a street thief who gets his jollies slipping his sticky fingers into the suit coat pockets' of unsuspecting strangers. Our title pickpocket is Michel (LaSalle), whom we first meet at a race track, his story being told via narration as he writes his memoirs. At the track, Michel slowly and sneakily slides his fingers into the purse of unsuspecting, seemingly upper class woman and rids her of a bundle of cash. He's almost immediately caught, but with no eyewitnesses and no proof, he's released. We follow him to his meager room - a small, barely livable space with only a small hook and eye latch to keep the door from swinging open. We also follow him as he visits his mother, but decides not to actually enter her apartment for reasons unknown to us at the time. Instead he meets with a neighbor and caretaker of his ailing mother, Jeanne (Green), who wants him to visit her but he refuses. Meanwhile, Michel meets up with a more skilled pickpocket who teaches him even more tricks, while the two share time at a local bar - a place where Michel will learn most of his tricks. The two begin to work together, pulling off more intricate, two man jobs and even adding a third man later to up the ante and pull off even cleverly crafted heists. All the while, Michel has a little on again/off again relationship with the chief inspector of police, who suspects Michel of foul play, but can't prove him of any wrongdoing. The two are cordial, even though they realize that they are each other's enemy.

SPOILER ALERT!


I'll start by talking about the scenes depicting the actual pickpocketing, which even THE BOOK notes are unlike any thievery scene ever filmed. It's truly amazing how intricate these scenes are and how Bresson was able to capture such excitement in these scenes. Is it true that the second pickpocket Michel meets at the bar was actually a magician or something, who also served as an advisor on the film, showing the filmmakers how to actually do these jobs? It seems that they'd have to have SOMEBODY on set to show them just how to make this stuff look genuine. What I didn't like about the movie is how we're never allowed to get very close to the character of Michel, the main character no less. We're given a man who seems conflicted from the start, yet we're always in the dark about exactly what troubles him. It's as if we're simply being told a story, not given a change to study the characters. I supposed you could say that the Michel character is ripe for examination, yet I say he's almost an enigma. He steals to what end? Not necessarily because he needs the money, but more for the thrill - like why a heroine addict shoots up; perhaps he's addicted to it. Perhaps he needs to feel important, like he has a purpose. Perhaps his connection to the chief inspector is one that he values more than he realizes. Maybe in his mind, as long as he's at large he's wanted by the police and maybe that feeling of being wanted by SOMEONE drives him to continue his pickpocketing. That could even explain why the film ends with him in prison, embracing Jeanne - because now he's wanted by her and no longer needs to be a theif, to be at large. Now he can be addicted to Jeanne, now his life has another purpose, yet it's too late for him, as he's no incarcerated with no hope of having a proper life with Jeanne. Okay, maybe I'm totally off base about this character being stale and maybe he IS ripe for studying.


I wasn't crazy about the movie or anything and found that when we weren't seeing the scenes depicting the pickpocketing, I was bored. I was fascinated by the sleight of hand, by the suspense of watching Michel face to face with some unsuspecting rube who was about to lose his dough. It was all so great that when we had to jump back and see Michel interacting with Jacques or Jeanne or even the scene where he visits his mother, I found myself not really caring about any of that. I wish there could've been a little more done to make those scenes more exciting and prevalent to the overall story. I found myself just watching a movie about a thief and neglecting the story about the man who was the thief and maybe that's my own fault. I would say that it was a better than average outing and really close to being something special, but falling short by just a little bit. Perhaps another day and another viewing would do this picture better, but for now call it a mild thumbs up.

RATING: 6.5/10  Just a little bit more and I could've nudged it into that upper echelon of ratings, which is a '7' or higher. Close but no cigar, but not a bad start for Bresson.

MOVIES WATCHED: 835
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 166

August 6, 2014  1:35am

Thursday, July 31, 2014

756. Dao ma zei/The Horse Thief (1986)

Running Time: 88 minutes
Directed By: Tian Zhuangzhuang
Written By: Zhang Rui
Main Cast: Dan Jiji, Gaoba, Jayang Jamco, Tsesheng Rinzim, Daiba

I'M TRYING REAL HARD, RINGO!

I told my wife that I was just going to lay down with her for a few minutes and then get back up to write my review for The Horse Thief. Well, about as soon as my head hit the pillow I was out like a light and didn't wake up until it was time to go to work this morning. So, I had to postpone everything by one night and now here we are. Let's get to it...


The plot synopsis I'm about to give you is the plot synopsis that I got from watching this movie. There was VERY little dialogue, which kind of made it a little hard to follow the film. However, I think I pretty much got the gist of everything - so I'll hit the bullet points and we'll go from there. So we've got the main character, his name's Norbu and as the title suggests, he's a horse thief. Except he's not just a horse thief, he's basically a kleptomaniac, as far as I could tell. In addition to being a thief, he's also a family man though, taking good care of his wife and kids (thus why he steals) and trying to provide for them, by any means necessary. The film is set in Tibet, among a clan of religious fanatics who offer sacrifices and offerings to Buddha, in exchange for him taking care of their land. Norbu is a part of the religious clan - that is until he's caught stealing temple offerings and is told to leave and never come back. Furthermore, he's told that if he ever does come back, his hands will be cut off. After being exiled, his son becomes very ill and Norbu believes it's because he's betrayed his God. Where he once got holy water from a lake meant to be used by all of the community, he now holds a pale to a trickling drain pipe in hopes that the rains from the heavens will cure his son. His son eventually dies and Norbu tires to change his ways, going back to the clan to try and make peace, but ultimately getting attacked and ran off.


This is the kind of movie that I'd normally just write off within the first twenty minutes and spend the next hour and change just putting up with it. I decided this time that I'd REALLY try to give this one a fair shake. I'm not saying I liked it or anything, but it wasn't a completely heinous ninety minutes and actually I'll give credit to some good cinematography and I suppose, a decent story. Martin Scorsese supposedly named this one of his top movies of the 90s (citing that it wasn't really a known film until that decade, despite being released in '86) and I'm willing to bet that was a big reason why THE BOOK broke down and included it. It's really nothing particularly important or particularly good and honestly, I think there were plenty of other important films. The lack of dialogue was a big turn off for me and were they really killing those animals? I'm no card carrying PETA member, but some of that stuff looked pretty brutal (cutting a sheep's throat and another scene depicting a group of sheep being buried alive, all for sacrificial purposes).


In the end, if it was something I really wanted to write off, I would have which proves that there must have been something there that kept me attached to the action. Again, not a great film by any means, but it's one of the better rare ones. Like I've said before, the rare stuff is usually the stuff that I dread going into, probably just because I know NOTHING about it. Not a lot of hype, not a lot of opinions to be found online, not a lot of nothing. This one was short enough to not get on my nerves too much, but ultimately I'd call it a worthless entry into THE BOOK, but one that must carry some sort of importance that I'm just not getting.

RATING: 4/10  I'll give it a few notches for the stuff I mentioned, but nothing worth going out of your way to see or anything, despite Scorsese's recommendation.

MOVIES WATCHED: 834
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 167

July 31, 2014  10:55pm