Week Ten: Variety Is Key
Cat and Mouse, dir. Jim Henson (1960) ★★★★☆
I have now made it a personal goal to finish all Jim Henson films, including the many shorts I have gotten around to. Mubi has been a great resource for finding these more obscure pieces of his filmography. In fact, they have made a lot of strange and hard to find film accessible to a wide audience. While this doesn't surpass Time Piece this one also had a sweet sense of charm and it also helps that I'm more of a cat person than a dog person.
A Matter of Life and Death, dir. Emeric Pressburger & Michael Powell (1946) ★★★★★
If I was back in college I would have written essays about this film. The movie follows a soldier that was meant to die but the angel in charge of finding him failed. When the angel returns to right his mistake the poor fool has already fallen in love with the woman running the radio communications when his plane was going down.
Another one of my favorite films is Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire from 1987 and it has a similar feel to it. The film uses the concepts of angels and love and more importantly they share the stylistic choices of coloring. Both portray the world or view of angels in black and white while the world of humans in full of vibrant colors. The angel or "conductor" as he is referred to in this film, played by Marius Goring, even remarks how life in better in Technicolor.
I adored this film and it is totally deserving of its spot in my top films I have seen this year. If still fails to break the spot Breaking Away has, but it is getting close.
A Tale of Two Cities, dir. Ralph Thomas (1958) ★★★☆☆
The trend for every week seems to be one Henson short and one Dirk Bogarde film. I will admit that I have not read the book nor did I understand the majority of what was going on in this adaption. I was heavily focused on Bogarde playing a selfish and drunk aristocrat. His iconic eyebrow raise happens in about every scene and the way he stumbles to and fro gives his otherwise unlikeable character a certain charm. His ultimate sacrifice in the end leaves the audience regretting their lack of connection to him throughout the film. But, all said and done it's a rather forgettable film.
Gunsmith Cats (ガンスミス キャッツ), dir. Takeshi Mori (1995) ★★★★☆
I haven't dipped my toes too far into the world of Japanese animation but every once and awhile I feel the urge to try more. This one hooked me from the beginning. Gunsmith Cats is a direct to video anime, often called OVA's (Original Video Animation), and is separated into three parts that create a full film. It follows two girls that own a gun shop in Chicago and the police officer who blackmails them into helping him with capturing various criminals.
In the manga, the Japanese version of comics, the girls go on to become amateur bounty hunters. Sadly, the film didn't spawn a sequel or further series. It did spark interest in the original manga making it now very accessible to American audiences.
Dark and Deadly: Fifty Years of Film Noir, dir. Paul Joyce (1995) ★★★☆☆
Thanks to the streaming service Arrow Player the majority of Paul Joyce's made-for-television documentaries about cinema are available for subscribers. I plan to work my way through them as they help me find even more films to watch for his journey.
This one was one of the more broad documentaries while others cover very specific films, directors, or actors. In college I picked the class on horror films instead of film noir so this had a lot of information that I didn't know. It's certainly not a substitute for a full class on the genre but it's a decent place to start. As other people on review sites like Letterboxd have pointed out though is that it sudden drives towards talking about a revival in the genre in the 90s. We can look back now on the 90s and see that it was a blip on the map of the noir genre.
Devilman - Volume 1: The Birth (デビルマン 誕生編) , dir. Umanosuke Iida (1987) ★★★★☆
This was another OVA that I found in a random playlist on YouTube. The majority of these obscure films are actually well documented online but they don't have a very big following as opposed to more mainstream and lengthy series.
I had heard of this one vaguely but it was mostly through memes and jokes online. Most of the content about it is making fun of the dubbing in the film. Dubbing is when a film's audio is translated and voice acted in a different language. I've talked about it with the many Spaghetti Westerns I watch but this one was much different. The amount of swearing is like a modern action movie and I was just stunned. Somehow the language was more surprising that the intense body horror.
Hardcore, dir. Paul Schrader (1979) ★★★★☆
I have studied Taxi Driver too many times and never has a teacher mentioned this movie instead. It has the same neo-noir feel. Neo-Noir is a genre that came about in the 70s as the new hardboiled detective films. They were now in color and used plenty of neons to contrast dark city nights.
Hardcore follows the story of a father looking for his daughter who was kidnapped and put into adult films. Unlike Taxi Driver, they thankfully don't actually have an underage actress being sexualized the whole time. Much less unnerving while being more interesting.