CFP: The Legacy of Radiohead's 'The Bends' 20 Years On [Deadlines: 29 Jan / 12 Feb]

 
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Monday, Jan 12, 2015
This Joan Crawford vehicle is a tantalizing mix of woman's melodrama and Freudian noir.

Possessed displays many ingredients popping in the Hollywood boilers of 1947. First, it’s a Joan Crawford vehicle, one fashioned to remind viewers of Mildred Pierce, which is mentioned in the film’s trailer. Like that hit, the story features problems of tension and jealousy with a (step)daughter, a romance with a shallow cad, and a scene where Crawford brandishes a revolver. Both were impeccable Jerry Wald productions.


Next, it’s a film directed by Curtis Bernhardt, shot by Joseph Valentine, and designed by Anton Grot in a manner emphasizing the dark, expressionist tendencies and uneasy paranoid mood that French critics would call “film noir”. Its expressionist streak extends to the casting of Crawford, whose wide-eyed glances and shoulder twitches are more expressive than natural. At least three prominent uses of subjective camera simulate her character’s vision: when she’s wheeled into a hospital, when she wanders into a house after an apparent ghost (an eerie scene), and when she’s holding a gun. In some shots, she points it at the viewer, as we adopt her prospective victim’s point of view.


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Monday, Jan 5, 2015
This enigmatic Iranian film is designed to undermine your comfort.

Manuscripts Don’t Burn, whose title is taken from the satirical Russian novel The Master and Margarita, is almost more important as an artifact of its own existence than as a drama. Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof has received a jail sentence for “filming without a permit” (according to Wikipedia) but apparently has yet to serve it, and is also under a 20-year ban from making films. Jafar Panahi responded to similar sentence by shooting a clandestine video called This Is Not a Film, and Rasoulof responds by secretly shooting a film in which none of the actors or crew receive credit. This is supposedly for their safety, though it can hardly be difficult to identify them. Several attended the premiere at Cannes.


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Monday, Dec 22, 2014
The Italian oddity Werewolf Woman has all the lunacy and nudity you'd want from such a title, plus a little meat on its bones.

Werewolf Woman opens with a sequence calculated to have exploitation fans lining up at the box office, as they apparently did in Italy at least. A couple of centuries ago, a furry woman with huge black nipples rolls around growling. She stalks a handsome torch-wielding villager before she’s finally burned at the stake. But wait—it’s all a dream! Our confused heroine Daniela (Annick Borel) wonders if she’s the reincarnation of this spitting-image ancestor, or rather drooling image, and we seem to be in well-trodden horror territory of the kind explored in Mario Bava’s Black Sunday, especially when Daniela recognizes her hunky sideburned brother-in-law as another reincarnation from her dream.


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Monday, Dec 15, 2014
Hands of a Stranger never works as suspense or horror, but it is odd in its own way, particularly for those fixated on hands.

This uncredited remake of Maurice Renard’s oft-filmed novel The Hands of Orlac takes an entirely psychological approach to the story of a man who has a killer’s hands grafted onto his wrists after an accident and finds the original owner’s murderous impulses taking over. In fact, we never learn the identity of the hand-donor who gets murdered in the opening sequence, and therefore we never know if he’s a killer.


Sensitive concert pianist Vernon Paris (James Stapleton, aka James Noah) is a beautiful fellow of delicate cheekbones. “I like music and I don’t think I’m a sissy,” he smiles. Even before the operation, he’s established as a putative neurotic who may be too close to his doting sister (Joan Harvey) and overcompensating with his shallow girlfriend (Irish McCalla). When he’s accidentally responsible for a couple of deaths—including one of the quickest and most unconvincing in cinema, comparable to the absurd defenestration in The Man with X-Ray Eyes—he blames the hands, the cursed hands!


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Thursday, Dec 11, 2014
This trip through the sands of Technicolor is more pretty than it is anything else.

Sigmung Romberg’s operetta The Desert Song has been filmed thrice. This 1943 version is the middle one, updated to 1939 on the eve of WWII. After being in limbo over rights issues, it’s now available in beautifully restored Technicolor from Warner Archives. Like its romantic couple, it’s both pretty and dull.


In the French colony of Morocco, some tribes are revolting. They’re willing to declare their loyalty to France for justice, but they’re being exploited by a local bigwig (Victor Francen) who’s forcing their labor to build a railroad in a secret deal with the Nazis. It’s not clear how their labor issues will be resolved after the French government takes over the railroad project (maybe they’ll be paid), but the movie ends before that. Meanwhile, the leader of one tribe, who calls himself El Khobar (Dennis Morgan), has a secret identity as an American piano player in a nightclub. A visiting French songstress (Irene Manning) falls for the way he sets her politics straight.


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