Week Six: Around The Globe
Something Good, dir. William Nicholas Selig (1898) ★★★★☆
In celebration of Black History Month I will be watching more films from black directors, including a full week of them later on. To kick it off I managed to find one of the earliest films featuring people of color. It's a simple short depicting a black man and woman kissing and embracing.
The film was thought to be lost for many years but the recent action to preserve more media led to it being discovered in 2017. It has been added to the American National Film Registry since in an effort to document both early silent film as well as the history of people of color in cinema.
Call Of Cuteness, dir. Brenda Lien (2017) ★☆☆☆☆
Sometimes you shouldn't judge a movie by it's cover. This animated film with a sweet looking pizza covered cat was not kid friendly at all. While I get the message of pollution and animal abuse, the morbid art style and depictions of animals is various states of decay was alarming and not something I was prepared for. This brilliant piece of German art could be entertaining if you don't pay attention to the grotesque nature of it. Hard pass for me.
Time Piece, dir. Jim Henson (1965) ★★★★★
Before his time with the friendly faces along Sesame Street and Kermit on his hand, Jim Henson made a variety of shorts. The first one I watched was Time Piece and it surprised me how the normally innocent artist was displaying both nudity and violence. While these topics are played for laughs and aren't too explicit it was jarring. The fast pace, use of stop motion, and bright colors are reflected in his later work and provide an early glimpse into his art style.
I grew up on his darker films like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, and watched Fraggle Rock later in my teen years. His films and television shows are like a warm hug; they comfort the viewer while still tackling hard topics. They are for all ages and while this short isn't exactly family friendly I really love it.
Miss Dundee and Her Performing Dogs, dir. Alice-Guy Blache (1902) ★★★☆☆
This is my second Blache film I have watched during this project, and it was very different from Falling Leaves. This French film follows the tradition of vaudevillian acts on stage. The transition from stage entertainment to film had lots of cross over in this genre of filmmaking.
While it is just a performance with a woman and her many adorable dogs, it displays how early film was often used as a novelty. People flooded into Nickelodeons (early cinemas that predate movie palace's like The Lincoln Theatre) to view these pictures for pure entertainment and no one was even thinking about creating narrative films.
The Crimes of The Black Cat, dir. Sergio Pastore (1972) ★★★★☆
I have a soft spot for Italian films if you haven't noticed. While I did take class on horror films back at Illinois State University we didn't devote anytime to the Giallo genre. Giallo is a subgenre of horror films but originated with small yellow pulp detective novels.
This one, like many others, revolves around a mystery with plenty of seductive women and bright red blood. The man character, played by actor Anthony Steffen, is a blind man that tries to solve various murders before the police. His character is unique in the Giallo setting and it provided a great dynamic with other characters.
A Few Dollars For Django, dir. Leon Klimovsky (1966) ★★★★☆
Along with his performances in many Giallo films, Steffen starred in plenty of Spaghetti Westerns
too. A trend in these pictures was the use of famous names from other westerns. It was common to have Django, Sartana, or Trinity in the titles without them starring in the film.
This is a prime example; the character is nothing like the original Franco Nero portrayal. That being said it's still entertaining. The plot follows Steffen's character as he roams into town and is mistaken for the new sherif. He plays along for awhile before getting truly invested in the issues in the town. He goes from being a silent, cold neutral character to fighting for peace and serenity. It's a refreshing take in a genre that's full of stereotypes and tropes.
Closed For Storm, dir. Jake Williams (2020) ★★★★☆
Before watching this documentary I will admit I have a bias. The director, Jake Williams, has a Youtube channel and runs Bright Sun Films. The majority of his videos revolves around abandoned locations and businesses as well as the trouble history of bankrupt companies. I have always enjoyed his essay like videoes and seeing that he made a full documentary I knew I had to watch it.
Like his other videos it revolves around an abandoned location: Six Flag New Orleans. He describes the downfall of the park after Hurricane Katrina. He includes plenty of b-roll of the storm, him at the abandoned park, and interviews with former employees and residences of the area. It's structure like his essay and easy to follow. It's more something to have on in the background than it is a complex production needing more focus and appreciation.