Saturday, October 3, 2015

686. YOL (1982)

Running Time: 114 minutes
Directed By: Serif Goren, Yilmaz Guney
Written By: Yilmaz Guney
Main Cast: Tarik Akan, Serif Sezer, Halil Ergun, Meral Orhonsay, Necmettin Cobanoglu


Moving right along, baby! I'm pretty proud of myself for getting back on the horse and even staying on the horse after a couple of mildly disappointing pictures. However, if anything is going to knock me off the horse, it's Yol.

I can't get too detailed as far as plot synopsis goes, because to be honest, this is another one that I kind of crapped out on at about the forty five minute mark. The film opens in a Turkish prison, a handful of prisoners set to be released on furlough. They are to be released for a few days, at which time, they'll be expected to return to prison, or force being considered a fugitive from justice. The film follows five prisoners as they are given their temporary release and the truths they face on the outside world. On paper, it sounds like a brilliant film, but you know I'm not going to like it when THE BOOK refers to it as "deeply political". Call it a culture clash, if you will, but I just could NOT settle into this one.

Let's talk about a few memorable scenes though, shall we? How about those shots of the children smoking cigarettes. I didn't think I cared about the children of our future ("teach them well and let them lead the way"), but I'll be damned if that scene didn't disturb me a little bit. All of them giving a little cool smirk after each puff, even though most of them looked too young to even know what "cool" meant.


Oh and how about that scene where Seyit Ali's wife freezes to death in the snow? Such a heartbreaking scene among an otherwise boring film. The scenes in the snow are well photographed to boot and when Seyit begins to beat his presumably dead wife with a belt, trying to kid himself into believing she's only sleeping - yeah, super heartbreaking and a marvelous scene. It didn't help, however, that I didn't really give one hoot about the characters. Had I cared, that's the type of scene that would make a man cry. As it is, it was only good enough to break me out of my clock watching and pay attention for a few minutes, before going back to being bored out of my skull. Again, I say, it all looked great on paper - a faux prison movie that focuses on the release of five convicts, whom we then follow and watch how they spend their furlough and continue their life for a matter of hours, before going back to being convicts. Actually, a brilliant story idea, but the execution and the political ramifications made it hard for me to sit through. NEXT!

RATING: 2.5/10  I feel like that may be too harsh, but it's a quarter of a full blown '10' and putting it like that, it seems more than fair. With only thirty two films to go, something brilliant needs to come along real soon!


October 3, 2015  10:24pm

360. La joven/The Young One (1960)

Running Time: 95 minutes
Directed By: Luis Bunuel
Written By: Hugo Butler and Luis Bunuel, from the story Travellin' Man by Peter Matthiessen
Main Cast: Key Meersman, Zachary Scott, Bernie Hamilton, Claudio Brook, Crahan Denton


The original plan was to set my alarm for eight a.m., get up and knock out a couple of movies while my wife was at work. Except my dog got an upset tummy in the night and kept both of us up all hours. Therefore, when the alarm went off this morning, I slept right through it. I still managed to get awake by ten and I've knocked out one movie already - The Young One.

The plot is pretty straight forward. The film takes place on an island, populated only by a game warden, Miller (Scott), a grandfather and his teenage granddaughter, Evvie (Meersman). When the film gets underway, the grandfather has just died, leaving only Evvie and the game warden, whom she looks upon as a father figure, despite his meanness toward her. One day, a black man rows ashore and despite a sign warning trespassers to flee, a boat without gas and the fact that he has no food, make him ignore it. He happens to come ashore during a time when the game warden has gone into the mainland to get supplies, meeting up only with Evvie, who reluctantly feeds him. The black man, Travers (Hamilton), takes a shotgun and a can of gas, leaves $20 for it and heads out. Except his troubles continue when he accidentally shoots a whole in his own boat. Meanwhile, Miller returns from the mainland to find a missing shotgun and missing gas, beating Evvie for giving it to Travers, whom she tells him of. Travers eventually returns to the cabin that Evvie and Miller occupy and is greeted by a very racist Miller. It should also be mentioned that Travers is on the run, as he's been accused of the rape of a white woman, adding even more fuel to the fire heading into the climax.

This film has made me realize just how versatile Luis Bunuel is. You've got the early period and films like "An Andalusian Dog" and "The Age of Gold", his middle period which showcases films like this one - which were quite normal by comparison. And, my favorite period, his late period which presents us with films like "Belle de Jour" and "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie". All very different films, by a seemingly different person and if one didn't know better, you'd be hard pressed to convince that person that all of these eras were from the same man. In fact, it's entirely possible for someone to both love and hate Luis Bunuel - in fact, I'm one of them. I admire his late mind benders like the ones I mentioned, as I believe they have qualities that make them rewatchable and memorable. However, films like "Los Olvidados" and "Land Without Bread" are nigh unwatchable and films I never hope to revisit.

I could probably write paragraph after paragraph about "The Young One" - talk about the racism aspects, the social class aspects and the pedophilia aspects, but I'd rather keep it simple and just give my quick and dirty thoughts. I liked it, I suppose. It certainly wasn't bad, by any means. But was it good? Not particularly. It was just sort of there and when it was over, I wasn't happy or sad for it to have ended. Sure, there were lots of issues that the film tackled, but I'm not necessarily in the business of dissecting social issues or even racial issues. As I sit here writing, it makes me wonder why filmmakers through the ages have tackled such issues? I mean, I'm not racist. I treat everyone equally - I'm proud to say there's not a racist bone in my body. However, if I was ambitious enough to make a film, I certainly wouldn't find it cathartic or even necessary to tackle a film about race. I guess some people are just deeper thinkers than I or are, perhaps, more bothered by bigotry than myself. I'm bothered by it, sure, but my approach is to ignore it, rather than to shine an even brighter spotlight on it. Okay, I'm rambling.

If you're looking for a top notch Bunuel, go with his later stuff. It's much easier to digest, despite being more confusing as far as plot goes. The confusion adds intrigue and makes you need to know exactly what's going on. The earlier stuff is just too out of this world for my tastes and if "The Young One" is any indication, his middle period is just bland.

RATING: 6/10  Not bad, not necessarily good, but I'll easily put it closer to the good side than the bad side.


October 3, 2015  12:44pm

Friday, October 2, 2015

606. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976)

Running Time: 135 minutes
Directed By: John Cassavetes
Written By: John Cassavetes
Main Cast: Ben Gazzara, Timothy Agoglia Carey, Seymour Cassel, Robert Phillips, Morgan Woodward
Click here to view the trailer


Hey there! It is really great to be back on the blog. As I mentioned before, I had intended to take a week or so away from the blog, as I was on vacation from work last week and was spending some quality time with my wife. I didn't want to have to interrupt our time together for writing reviews or watching movies that I HAD to watch, as opposed to movies that I was just watching for fun. I actually saw a couple REALLY good movies while I was away, but I'll save those for another time. Let's get back down to brass tacks and get this project wrapped up before 2015 comes to a close.

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie would be my last John Cassavetes movie, wrapping up a four film salute to the "father of independent cinema". The title of this one alone made it sound incredibly appealing and it starred a fantastic Ben Gazzara as Cosmo Vittelli. The film is a very slllloooooooooooooooow burn of a picture, telling the story of Cosmo - a mildly successful owner of a "joint" that hosts live nude girls nightly, all of whom Gazzaara's Cosmo is mildly to ecstatically in love with. When a stranger shows his face in the joint one night, singing Cosmo's praises, Cosmo starts chatting him up. It turns out that the man's name is Mort (Cassel) and he owns a joint of his own - a gambling joint. He invites Cosmo to check it out sometime, insisting that everything will be "on the house". When Cosmo finally does get around to checking the place out, he ends the night by racking up a $23,000 gambling debt, which he can't pay. Later, Mort and his associates propose a counter offer: since he can't pay, they suggest he kill someone who is "getting in their way" - the Chinese bookie of the title, of course.

The very first time I saw Taxi Driver, I hated it. I just didn't get it and I was probably too young to get a lot of the prostitution business and "adult type" themes that played out. I probably said a lot of the same things about Taxi Driver then, that I'm getting ready to say about The Killing of a Chinese Bookie now - which gives me hope that I'll someday rewatch "Chinese Bookie" and "get it". By "get it", I mean get the hype, not the plot. In fact, the plot is more than easy to follow and truthfully, plot wise, they could've wrapped this puppy up in jig time, probably even qualifying it for short film length. I mean, what's the plot. Guy owns a club, guy gambles too much, guy gets in debt, guy pays off debt by killing. End of story, no harm, no foul. In fact, as I just typed it out there and saw it on the page, I realize that Buffalo '66 is basically a remake of this, with the added plot twists of "guy goes to prison", "guy kidnaps girl" and "guy falls in love". Okay, so maybe it's not a remake at all, but I'd say it definitely inspired Vincent Gallo, hence his casting of Gazzara. Would you believe that we don't even HEAR tell of a "Chinese bookie" until over an hour into the film? It's true. We don't actually see the Chinese bookie until probably close to the ninety minute mark. Wouldn't a more apropos title have been, "The Killer of a Chinese Bookie", since the film works much better as a character study of Cosmo, than anything else.

For my tastes, the burn here was just way too slow. There were SO MANY scenes that could have easily been cut to save time and make the pace a bit more rapid, but were kept in for God knows why. In fact, did anyone else get the feeling that the film was actually directed by horny teenager who just needed to get that "one more shot of boob". I mean, were all the gratuitous tit shots really necessary? Even the scenes where the girls and guy sang on the stage were mildly entertaining at best and easily worthy of the ax.

However, I'll get it to at least the average marker for having an atmosphere that appealed to me and for showcasing the great Ben Gazzara. I actually think that I focused too much on plot here and realized a little too late that it wasn't about the plot, but rather a simple character study of Gazzara's Cosmo. Yes, I believe I watched the movie wrong! Actually, I think this film - and all of John Cassavetes movies actually - are just a little too indy. I feel like Cassavetes is trying way too hard to stand out and go against the grain, that ultimately my opinions on his films are suffering for it. Yes, A Woman Under the Influence was good and has a good shot at getting some sort of spot on the impending TOP 20. But the rest were all huge disappointments for me, clocking in at average, at best. I mean, for God's sake this is an independent crime drama - that has my name written all over it. It's something I'd normally take right to, but it moved along at a snail's pace and, at least on this day, I just didn't have the patience for it.

RATING: 5/10  Slice it right down the middle and call it average. Man, what a HUGE disappointment these movies were and if you were to make a list of the biggest films to disappoint me from THE BOOK, you'd have to call the films of John Cassavetes a four way tie for first place.


October 2, 2015  11:13pm

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

282. Sansho Dayu/Sansho the Bailiff (1954)

Running Time: 124 minutes
Directed By: Kenji Mizoguchi
Written By: Yahiro Fuji, Ogai Mori, Yoshikata Yoda, from story by Ogai Mori
Main Cast: Kinuyo Tanaka, Kyoko Kagawa, Eitaro Shindo, Yoshiaki Hanayagi, Ichiro Sugai

So my vacation starts tomorrow and while it would be the perfect opportunity to polish off a whole crop of BOOK films, I don't actually have plans to. My wife and I are going to take the week to get some much need R&R and watch some "fun movies" as opposed to me spending the week catching up on my personal project. If I can, I'll sneak one or two, but don't expect much out of me for the next six days. Anyway, the season premiere of Survivor meant my wife was off limits for ninety minutes, which freed me up some time to knock out another two plus hour BOOK flick. Read on...

The film's plot is pretty cut & dry, not to mention pretty basic and uninteresting. When their father (and husband) is banished from a community, two children and their mother must fend for themselves, departing to live with her brother. Years later, the trio set out to fend for themselves once more, setting up camp, lost & alone. They are happened upon one evening by a priestess who is most kind, offering them a warm place to stay for the night and a hot meal. Once she hears of their situation, the priestess offers to introduce mother & kids to some boatmen, who will take them to safety. The next morning, once mother enters the boat, the boatmen and priestess are revealed to be tricking her, keeping the kids behind, as their mother sails off. The kids, Zushio and Anju, are then sold into a slave labor camp, headed up by the title character - Sansho the Bailiff. The kids are worked nearly to death and live as slaves until they are teenagers - the female, Anju, always wondering what became of her mother and her brother, Zushio, becoming a loyal, expressionless henchmen for the ruler Sansho. One day, while taking a dying woman to the mountainside, so that she can pass in peace, Anju convinces Zushio to flee, stating that she will stay behind and lead the guards in the wrong direction. Zushio knows that his sister will be tortured until she gives up his location, but does as his sister wishes. Anju stays behind in hopes that her brother will successfully flee and find their long lost mother.


Pardon me if this review stinks, but my attention is currently being divided between the blog and the Big Brother finale. I'll do my best to keep my thoughts in order...

Boy, I didn't like this very much at all. Sure, it's possible that my mind was elsewhere - thinking of getting through my last day of work tomorrow and getting to that much needed vacation. However, my mind knows when a good movie is playing out in front of it and will sit up and take notice, if need be. This just wasn't a movie that grabbed my attention and therefore, my mind wandered and I was rather bored throughout. The film just didn't strike me as anything unique or even worth me wasting my undivided attention. The characters were rather bland and at no point during the two hour running time did I begin to fall for them, caring about how they ended up, rooting for their success, etc. Instead, this whole film felt like something I'd already seen before - perhaps from the likes of Kurosawa or some other sad sap. Kids separated from mother, son rises from slave to ruler and an ending that was both happy & heartbreaking. Nothing about this felt unique to me and while it may have been unique in 1954, it didn't pass the test in 2015.

I guess I can't say it was all bad. We all know I'm a sucker for a sad ending and while the film did end on a bit of a high note, with Zushio reuniting with his mother, you got the sense that she was on her last legs and wouldn't have much life left, making his whole journey nearly fruitless - his sister dead, his mother nearly there. Also while it started out like something that was going to be confusing, it all cleared up pretty fast and unfolded as a plot that was very easy to follow, filled with layers and characters whose lives sprawled out, despite being fairly one dimensional. I wasn't ecstatic about the film, but it may have been a case of wrong film, wrong time. Like I said, my mind was indeed elsewhere and Sansho the Bailiff wasn't near powerful enough to demand my attention, capture my imagination and therefore, I'd have to call it non-recommendable.

RATING: 4/10  Call it a '4', as I wouldn't even go so far as to say it was average or anything worth going out of your way to see. However, BOOK hounds, don't fret, it's a fairly easy watch.


September 23, 2015  10:54pm

Monday, September 21, 2015

582. A Woman Under the Influence (1974)

Running Time: 146 minutes
Directed By: John Cassavetes
Written By: John Cassavetes
Main Cast: Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk, Fred Draper, Lady Rowlands, Katherine Cassavetes
Click here to view the trailer


Well, it's been a busy week, guys. I had no intention of taking a week off, but now that I have, it's clear that I'm probably not getting THE BOOK finished by Halloween. So let's shoot for the end of the year instead and take some of the pressure off. Anyway, we're still in the midst of Cassavetes Week, which has been disappointing thus far. But, perhaps, A Woman Under the Influence could get me into the good graces of Mr. Cassavetes.

Gena Rowlands (Cassavetes real life wife) is the star of this show, playing Mabel Longhetti, wife to Nick Longhetti (Falk) and mother to three children. The film begins with Mabel loading the three kids into her mother's car, so that she and Nick can have a night to themselves. Except Nick works for the city and on this same night, a water main breaks keeping him out at work all night long. Mabel ends up going to a bar and yada yada yada has an affair with Nick. Except the film isn't about an affair, as Nick never finds out about the other man. The film is about Mabel's slow descent into madness, as she suffers from various mental problems, as well as, probably a pretty good dose of depression on top of all that. The film is doled out in pieces, some short, some long. The film takes place over the course of a couple of days, the one or two days prior to Mabel being committed. Then we skip ahead six months to the day Mabel is to be released from the hospital and we get one more day in the life of the Longhetti's.

I suppose the film is just a tad on the long side, but with phenomenal performances from Rowlands and (to a lesser degree) Falk, how can you blame Cassavetes for not wanting to turn the camera away. At times A Woman Under the Influence is uncomfortable to watch, as if we're guests at the house while Mabel and Nick are going through this peril. In fact, at times it's so personal that for instantaneous flashes, it all feels 100% real. It's as if, for those brief seconds, that we just want to get up and excuse ourselves, but then we remember it's all a movie. I have seen Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore and quite enjoyed the performance from Ellen Burstyn. That being said, I'm still of the opinion that Burstyn owes Rowlands an Oscar. I don't want to go overboard here with my praise, so let me just say that I've RARELY seen a performance as good as the one Rowlands gives. Rowalnds poured everything out here, all of her energy, all of her emotion, all of her passion and it's enough to make me want to cry that she wasn't rewarded for it, by her peers.

This is definitely a step in the right direction for Cassavetes, as far as I'm concerned. I wasn't crazy about Shadows at all and Faces was pretty good, but not good enough for a director who's work I'd been looking forward to for so long. I wouldn't go so far as to say I loved this or anything, but I really liked it and call it another strong candidate for, at least, a TEN WORTH MENTIONING spot in the impending TOP 20. I could probably go two or three paragraphs on this one and really analyze it to death, but it's been a long week, so we'll wrap it up with that.

RATING: 7.5/10  Sorry for the awful review, but I really am tired and the smell of my wife's stuffed shells wafting in from the kitchen is REALLY making me want to go see what time dinner will be ready!


September 21, 2015  5:24pm

Monday, September 14, 2015

481. FACES (1968)

Running Time: 130 minutes
Directed By: John Cassavetes
Written By: John Cassavetes
Main Cast: John Marley, Gena Rowlands, Lynn Carlin, Seymour Cassel, Fred Draper
Click here to view the trailer


So after a five day break from the blog, my hopes of getting this thing wrapped up by Halloween are slowly fading away. I'll still give it my best, but I was feeling a bit burned out and needed some time to recharge the batteries. In other news, I've purchased a new notebook laptop and this will be the first official review written on it. I'm really digging it so far and am hoping that it makes writing reviews a bit easier. Read on...

Plot synopsis really isn't completely necessary here, as just a few sentences and I could easily sum up the events of Faces. However, I'll do my best to properly fill you in. At the center of the film, is a married couple - Richard (Marley) and Maria Forst (Carlin). They've been married for a while and while they seemingly get along fairly decent, below the surface, the marriage is crumbling. One evening, the two get into a spat while discussing the infidelities of one of Richard's colleagues, causing Richard to blow up and announce his desire for a divorce. This takes Maria off guard, of course and Richard leaves, proclaiming he'll send for his clothes, but he physically won't be back. Richard finds companionship, instead, in the arms of Jeannie (Rowlands), a prostitute whom he's seen on occasion in the past. The two spend the night together and meanwhile, Maria finds her solace in the arms of blonde haired, playboy Chet (Cassel). During the night, Maria overdoses on sleeping pills, causing Chet to have to go all APARTMENT on her ass. I'll leave the rest up to you and your eyeballs.

I don't think the phrase "spoiler alert" is applicable here, as I've pretty much just told you 90% of the film and still, I didn't really spoil anything. Faces is not a film that is subject to spoilage, as it's a film that needs to be experienced, rather than one intended solely for entertainment purposes. I need to clarify already, that I wasn't completely blown away by Faces, even though this is normally just the type of thing I go for. I definitely liked it, don't get me wrong, but I'd say at this point Cassavetes is 0-2 with me. In a normal world, he'd be 2-2, but I had SUCH high hopes going into these that I'd have to consider both Shadows and Faces to be, at least, mild disappointments ("mild" in Faces' case, "medium" in Shadows' case). I don't know what it was about the film. How about all the hysterical laughing, for one? How annoying was that? That whole scene where Richard and Maria are discussing Draper's sex dreams and they're just laughing at each other for like ten minutes - while it does a lot to develop the camaraderie in the Forst relationship, it's also hugely annoying. Also and I don't know why, I really couldn't stand Gena Rowlands here. I'd really have to think to remember another movie I've seen her in, so we'll consider this my first experiences with Ms. Rowlands. While I thought she was a fine actress and a looker to boot, I just couldn't get into her character. Any scene that involved her, quickly realized that it was going to be another slow step in the film.

On the other hand, certain segments were quite fascinating, ie. the scene where Maria overdoses and the scene where we first see Richard and Maria together, early in the film (save for the laughing part). I also really enjoyed John Marley and Lynn Carlin. I thought they were both gems and I'd have LOVED to have seen more between them. I felt like we were entitled to a bigger blowup from the two when the divorce is announced and maybe even a second knock down drag out toward the end, as the film ends and the two fall into each other, exhausted from their verbal battle, realizing they're made for each other. As it is, the ending is fine. I loved Cassavetes' decision to end the film with a whimper, as opposed to a bang - the two couples sitting on the stairs, nursing their cigarettes, silent - probably contemplating where it goes from here, just as we are probably contemplating the same thing.

Boy, I'm really torn on this one. On one hand, it was sort of perfect and even writing about it and reflecting about it have caused me to sweeten on it. However, I can't help but feel disappointed by Faces and by Cassavetes, thus far, as a whole. Perhaps it's my own fault for waiting nearly ten years to see movies that I could've easily seen then. Don't put off till tomorrow, what can easily do today, right? Right!

RATING: 6.5/10  Put it right outside the door of a '7' and that upper tier I always talk about. I can see myself liking this one even more in a few days, once my brain has marinated in it's thoughts & processes for a little while longer.


September 14, 2015  4:51pm

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

346. SHADOWS (1959)

Running Time: 87 minutes
Directed By: John Cassavetes
Written By: John Cassavetes
Main Cast: Ben Caruthers, Lelia Goldoni, Hugh Hurd, Anthony Ray, Dennis Sallas
Click here to view the trailer


Welcome to a week (or what will probably amount to closer to two) dedicated to the father of independent, American cinema - John Cassavetes. Of course, we're talking about John Cassavetes, who has four movies in THE BOOK, starting with his 1959 debut - Shadows.

The film is reminiscent of the French New Wave and THE BOOK even compares it to Breathless, something I'd call a spot on comparison. The movie takes place in New York and tells of three siblings: Hugh (Hurd), Ben (Carruthers) and Lelia (Goldoni). Actually, the film really revolves around Lelia and her courting of three different men, over the course of the film's running time. The first guy is a scholarly type, a bit older and a bit of a square. In fact, Lelia is stolen from the first guy, by the second guy, Tony (Ray). Lelia and Tony hit it off just fine and cap their night off with a bout of lovemaking, Lelia's first time. I guess I should take a minute to tell you that the siblings - Hugh, Lelia and Ben - are African American, but that Hugh is very dark skinned, while the other two are so light skinned that they're often mistaken as white. In fact, Tony himself even manages to mistake Lelia for a white girl, so that when her brother Hugh arrives at Lelia's home, unexpected, Tony's true colors shine through and thus, wants nothing else to do with Lelia. Lelia slips into a bit of a depression, shutting out the world. Her third suitor eventually comes along - an African American boy who is also a huge pushover. Meanwhile, Hugh tries to make it as a nightclub singer and Ben buddies around with his guy pals. It's Beat-Era New York City, folks.

How about we start with a story?

It was 2007 and during that summer, I moved out of my parents home, about twenty miles away to my very first apartment, with my very new wife. I've talked about this before on the blog - the two of us had a blast and I'll never forget those early days of roughing it on our own, cooking Hamburger Helpers and other cheap meals. Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked. T

That winter, I started to get very interested in film. I'd say this is when I officially turned up the notch on my movie addiction, form casual movie watcher to wannabe film buff. I started making notes of everything I watched and in January 2008, I actually started keeping a tablet, writing down everything I watched, along with the year and the director of each movie. Again - getting ahead of myself.

That Christmas of 2007, I was at Barnes & Noble bookstore - the only place to buy Criterion Collection films, that I know of - and my eyes caught a Cassavetes, Criterion Collection box set. Now, at this point, I had yet to see any John Cassavetes movies and probably didn't even realize that this was the same guy who played Rosemary's husband. For some reason, I had to have that box set. I just wanted it. Somehow I knew that the movie enclosed would all be superb and that it would be a blind buy worth going in blind on. However, the set was something like $150 bucks and being a newlywed with new bills like rent and car payment, I just couldn't bring myself to splurge. Eventually, I came to my senses, told myself that I'd watch the films first and that if I still wanted the box set, I'd save up and buy it.

Flash forward to today and my DVD collection isn't the pride & joy it once was. With things like Netlflix and OnDemand, the necessity to have a DVD collection is becoming less and less. As for my infatuation with the unknown work of John Cassavetes? Well, I never did see any of his movies - that is, until yesterday and my first ever viewing of a Cassavetes picture, Shadows.

All I can say is, so far, I'm glad I didn't splurge on the box set.

Nah, I just didn't care for it THAT MUCH and while it was ahead of it's time, it was no more crucial to the advancement of motion pictures that Godard's contributions to the French New Wave, namely Breathless, which is just as ahead of it's time and better, to boot. I didn't hate Shadows or anything, as it was a decent, little picture. However, "little" is the key word there, casting amateur actors who seem to be improving their lines (and not particularly well) and a very amateurish feel to the whole affair, complete with grainy, ugly black & white. I get it. It's an independent feature, it's supposed to be amateurish, it's supposed to be grainy, but that's just a hint of what also happened to turn me off.

I don't want to get into a whole question of race or anything here, but yours truly has never encountered a black person who was so light skinned, I mistook them for a white person. Maybe there are black people who are THAT light, but I've never encountered it personally. So, when Hugh walked in on Lelia and Tony and everyone started flipping out, I had to reach for the pause button and ask my wife for a little clarification. Up to that point, I thought Lelia & Hugh and Hugh & Ben were just calling each other "brother" and "sister" playfully, meaning they were good friends who thought of each other as siblings. II never crossed my mind that Lelia and Ben were his actual siblings. I was definitely confused by the whole thing and wondered why Cassavetes didn't just cast light skinned, black actors. Because Carruthers and Goldoni were actually white, right?

I realize that we're talking about 1959 here, when race relations was a very taboo and sensitive subject and it's not something you really spoke about openly and freely, especially within the medium of motion picture. However, it's not 2015 and recent events in Ferguson and Baltimore, among other places, make me want to hear less and less about racial tensions, even if it is coming from a time capsule movie from over fifty years ago. I find it absolutely ridiculous that in 2015 there are still racists and that's one of the hundreds of problems that when I turn on a movie, I want that movie to help me forget about. Okay, so maybe I'm being a little over dramatic in blaming Shadows' racial topics on my dislike for the film. Most of it, I think, was just pure disappointment. I mean we're talking about a filmmaker that I've been waiting to sink my teeth into for nearly a decade and his first picture out of the gate was a less than impressive feat. I'll be approaching his next film with caution, in high hopes that by the time I've watched all four, I have a contender for new favorite movie.

RATING: 5/10  Let's just call it average and call it a day, shall we? I could see this one growing on me with multiple viewings, but as a first go around, it was perfectly average.


September 9, 2015  11:33pm