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by Michael Barrett

9 Aug 2017


Stanislas Merhar and Clotilde Courau (IMDB)

In under 75 minutes, Philippe Garrel presents with clarity pretty much all that needs to be said about adultery, and he does so compassionately and without overdramatizing an emotionally complex and contradictory set of circumstances.

Pierre (Stanislas Merhar) is making a documentary about an old man who was a member of the French Resistance during WWII. While the man speaks, his wife fetches cookies. She has a different perspective on her husband and doesn’t seem to accord the moment the respect it should merit.

by Michael Barrett

25 Jul 2017


It’s possible that you’ve seen a film called Déjà Vu  before. Tony Scott directed an excellent thriller by that title starring Denzel Washington in 2006, and Henry Jaglom made a good romance of that name in 1997. The movie under discussion today, however, is a 1985 Cannon Production shot in London and Paris, and it’s a romantic reincarnation thriller whose plot twists and chronology perch it between J. Lee Thompson’s The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975) and Kenneth Branagh’s Dead Again (1991).

Fourth-billed Nigel Terry plays the central character, a writer named Gregory living happily with actress Maggie (Jaclyn Smith). She drags him to a classic black and white ballet film from the ‘30s (because there are so many!) starring one Brooke Ashley, and he becomes fascinated by Maggie’s uncanny resemblance to Brooke, although Maggie doesn’t seem to notice it. Maybe it’s because they both have such different hair.

by Michael Barrett

21 Jul 2017


Hedy Lamarr and George Nader (courtesy of Universal via IMDB)

Independent producer Albert Zugsmith specialized in what were regarded as trashy exploitation pictures during the ‘50s and ‘60s, yet he managed to pull off a handful of classics during his association with Universal: Jack Arnold’s The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), Douglas Sirk’s Written on the Wind (1956) and still widely underseen The Tarnished Angels (1958), and Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958), controversially taken away from Welles and re-edited.

by Michael Barrett

13 Jun 2017


Gérard Herter as a Freaked Out Max Gunther

Fans of sci-fi and horror will be very pleased by the lavish, loving attention bestowed upon this 1959 Italian production, pustules and all. Inspired largely by The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) without being as smart, this is a movie that probably nobody will place among its decade’s top 10 sci-fi horrors. Nevertheless, it’s well worth a look and historically important for reasons we’ll mention.

The film opens with oodles of atmosphere conjured out of glass matte paintings, roiling volcano effects (actually, ink in water) and sheer shadowplay. We’re allegedly in Mexico, investigating the ruins of a Mayan civilization, when a member of the Ulmer expedition (named slyly for Edgar Ulmer, a master of cheap but effective atmosphere) staggers back to camp gibbering and fainting. The other members quickly discover the cave of Caltiki, a Mayan goddess, where some kind of radioactive blob emerges from the water to melt the flesh from impertinent explorers, especially those greedy for gold and nookie.

by Michael Barrett

8 Jun 2017


Shadowy killer and Edwige

Georges Franju is an important French filmmaker who made fewer than ten features and is known to Region 1 audiences, and indeed elsewhere, largely for the quietly intense and ghastly horror film Eyes Without a Face (1959). Several years ago, Criterion finally brought out another of his items, Judex (1963), a celebration of the spirit of silent serials, and since then we’ve remained parched for more output.

Perhaps the dam is breaking, for Arrow Films has bestowed upon us the movie Franju made right after Eyes Without a Face. Spotlight on a Murderer  (1961), is scripted by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, the famous team of novelists whose work inspired the films Diabolique (1955) and Vertigo  (1958), and we’ll add the vastly underrated Body Parts (1991). In other words, they’re famous for plot twists and a labyrinthine air of mystery in its purest, most uncanny form.

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