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The Boston Strangler * Richard Fleischer * 1968

I usually don’t care too much for old films, but for some reason I wanted to see this one. I am glad I did!
Of course the film is about the Boston Strangler, a serial killer from the beginning of the previous century in the USA. The story isn’t told too great, but there is something about this film that does make it interesting. The montage of the film has some very original aspects. Often Fleischer used a picture-in-picture way of showing different scenes. Sometimes the different pictures show different things like the first five murders, but sometimes the pictures show different angles of the same scene, which is really well-done. You see -for example- a close up of the face of someone driving a car, but also the car from the front and from the back. Often a scene starts full-screen, but later zooms in something and then other pictures start to pop up. I don’t believe I have seen something similar in any other film, either old or recent.
The film itself is interesting enough to keep my attention for the whole running, so this is definately one of the best old movies that I know.

Bom Yeoreum Gaeul Gyeoul Geurigo Bom * Ki-Duk Kim * 2003

spring, summer, fall, winter… and spring>

This is the second film of Ki-Duk Kim that I see and comes closer to what I expected when I bought “Seom”. “Spring, Summer…” is about a monk who lives on an artificial island in a lake (again!) with his pupil. He teaches his pupil the lessons of life. When a sick girl of the pupil’s age comes to the monk to be cured from her illness, the pupil and her fall in love and the pupil eventually follows her to ‘the world of men’ only to return disappointed. “Spring, Summer…” is a very slow film with beautifull images and (Buddist) lessons for life. This is a very ‘spiritual’ film shot in a ‘meditative’ style. Some aspects of “Seom” come back in this film, but not the ‘gory parts’! A very nice watch, available on DVD for a very nice price.

Blue Velvet * David Lynch * 1986

Just before “Mullholand Drive” came in the Dutch cinemas, Lynch old film “Blue Velvet” was brought back to the Dutch filmhouses on some kind of ‘tour’. In most filmhouses this film is just shown once and then the tapes are brought to the next cinema to please the local Lynch-freaks there.

Of course I have seen this film quite a long time ago even so long ago that I didn’t remember too much from it anymore. I didn’t even remember if I liked it! Well, to any Lynch-freak reading this I have one advice: go and see Blue Velvet on the big screen! The overall effect of such a dark film as “Blue Velvet”, “Lost Highway” of Mullholand Drive” is 100x better in a cinema than on your own television with the lights on. “Blue Velvet” indeed is the masterpiece of mister Lynch as many filmcritics say. It’s yet not as absurd or extreme as the other two mentioned films, but already here are the vague scenes with out-of-focus filming, dark drones, weird sounds and extremely dark filming that can only really get to you when seeing it in a ciname.

For the people who haven’t seen “Blue Velvet” yet (and to clear up the memory of those who saw it a long time ago), the story: The young and naive man Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle Machlachlan, best known for being special agent Dale Cooper in Lynch’s “Twin Peaks”, but also playing in Lynch’s “Dune”) finds a human ear in a field close to the remote small town where he lives. He brings it so a police-officer who lives in his neighbourhood and however the officer warns him to let it go, Jeffrey starts his own investigation together with the officer’s daughter (Sandy Williams played by Laura Dern). Jeffrey gets involved in a twisted world of crime where the extremely disturbed Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rosselini) is blackmailed by a group of criminals who have her little son and husband (who’s ear Jeffrey found). The first of the criminals Jeffrey sees is the over-emotional Frank Booth (a great part by Dennis Hopper) who starts to cry by every song he hears, but when not overwhelmed by sadness he is extremely violent, speaks only in terms of abuse and uses a gas that makes him feel to be an oversexed baby. Jeffrey also meets a couple of Franks friend, one of which is called “Paul” (Jack Nance played in every Lynch production until he died in 1996), Franks gay boss Ben (Dean Stockwell) and a corrupt police-officer.

I won’t tell too much of the story, but it is a fact that back in 1986 there still is an understandable story with a beginning and an end. The film has a great Lynch-atmosphere, some pretty sick scenes, rough violence and a beautiful contrasts in whichever way you can imagine.

And as said, “Blue Velvet” is 100x better on the bigscreen, so when you get that change, don’t let it pass by!

Blow * Ted Demme * 2001

George Jung (Johnny Depp) didn’t have the best imaginable youth with his loser-dad, so when he groes up he and his buddy Tuna (Ethan Suplee) move to Callifornia where they are immediately introduced into a youthfull world filled with sun, sex and softdrugs. Pretty quickly the duo starts to sell marijuana and they do pretty well. When they run into a friend from their hometown and find out that the homelands are crying for pot, they start to smuggle marijuana in large quantities and make a lot of money. This is possible with the help of George’s Callifornian girlfriend Barbara (Franka Potente) who is a stewardess.
Then the money gets to George’s head and he makes contacts in Colombia to get larger amounts of marijuana faster. With the help of Derek Foreal (Paul Reubens) who they bought their first pot from, they sell huge amounts very rapidly. Then George gets caught and spends some time in prison. There he hears about cocaine (something new in that time) which he is also able to get in Colombia and he becomes the first to import it to the USA. Also with the help of Foreal George manages to sell 50kg in three weeks time, which brings him under the attention of the biggest Colombian drug-baron. For a while Jung is the only importer of cocaine in the USA and he makes millions of dollars. When he breaks up with Barbara, the Callifornian groups falls apart. Later George meets a new girlfriend called Mirtha (Penélope Cruz) who he marries. Then his business-partners betray him and George is out of business and he even is caught by the police with the help of a former friend.

All this is told in the modern crime-film-manner. The film indeed reminds a bit of “Boogie Nights” and maybe even a film like “Snatch”, “Thursday” or “Sexy Beast”, but it is not as violent and funny as these.
The film is based on “the book by Bruce Pollar” and supposedly “based on a true story”.
All in all quite a nice film, but not brilliant.

Blood Simple * Joel + Ethan Coen * 1984

The very first film of the brothers Coen is a nice one. A strange crime-film with weird humour like more of their older films. The wife of a bar-owner sleeps with with an employee and the bar-owner/boss finds that out by hiring a private detective. He can’t cope with that fact and asks the detective to kill the couple, but gets shot himself. A strange story develops which you shouldn’t know on forehand.

A very good debut, as all Coen films are very nice to watch. Also funny to see that Frances McDormand is also present in this film, as she is in most Coen films.

The Blair With Project * Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez * 1999

I had already seen this film a long time ago and I suppose most of you have too, so this review is for the few who still haven’t seen this film.

Back in 1999 an artificial hype was created around the supposedly finding of the bodies of three students who wanted to make a documentary about the myth of the Blair Witch. An internetpage did the job, spreading news and rumors, such as the finding of the car, the finding of the bodies and eventually the finding of the material the students filmed and recorded. As claimed the film is the result of the recordings of the students. They had a handycam, a 16 mm camera and a DAT for the sound. The film looks like a holiday-film with the students talking to eachother, getting ready for the travel, etc. First they shoot images for the documentary, later they start a hike into the forest for more images and information. After getting lost, hearing strange sounds in the night, the film gets scarier and scarier. Because you see everything through the eyes of the students, the effect is quite stunning. You don’t get to see what it is that scares them, but the atmosphere is heavy and genuely scary.

Very well done, very cheaply done, an open end. On TV not as impressive as on the big screen, but I at least didn’t get sick this time!

Later this film was followed by a cheap horror by another director and the real follow-up is still anounced. The DVD comes with a documentary about this documentary.

True cult, even though a lot of people liked it.

Birthday Girl * Jez Buttersworth * 2001

Oh well, I guess you know about this film. Nicole Kidman is a Russian girl, bought by a frustrated Brittish young man via the internet. From the first minute on, you can see that it can’t be that easy to just buy a beautiful woman. This shows immediately when Kidman can only speak Russian. Still she wins the mans heart and a few nice scenes with Kidman (who looks 10 years younger than she actually is) with no cloths on pass. At Kidmans birthday two Russian friends arrive and this is when the comedy is supposed to go over in a thriller. Well, it doesn’t! There are a handfull of nice jokes in the film and Kidman is lovely, but overall this film is terribly disapointing. The story is not logical or credible, there is no tension and a completely stupid ending.

Big Fish * Tim Burton * 2003

Ah, a new Burton. I had just heard about “Big Fish” and a relative already had it on DVD, so… As you may expect from Burton this is not your average film. It is again a fairytale-like film, fairly funny and of course strange. Ed Bloom is a story-telling father who bases his stories on his own adventures, but gives them heavily worked-on to make them more interesting, a bit like the Baron von Münchhausen a few centuries ago. The major story is about the catch of an enormous fish which isn’t really a fish. Funny are the stories of his life; his career in the circus, his friend Karl the Giant, the way he met his wife, etc. In all it became a bit too much a family-film, but still it is very amusing and has some wonderfull jokes and filmographic inventions. Also well-known actors in sometimes unusual parts: Ewan MacGregor (young Ed Bloom), Steve Busceni (Norther Winslow) or Danny de Vito (circus director).

Beowulf * Graham Baker * 1999

As the title suggests this film is based on the epic poem “Beowulf”. If I am correct this is the oldest known text in the English language. It is said to be from the 6th century. So, in the 6th century they already wrote sci-fi?! I don’t know “Beowulf” myself (but I know the personage with the same name from “Tristan and Isolde”, a German saga), but I suppose this is a very loose interpretation or everything that isn’t described in the text is filled in by the makers of the film. The film “Beowulf” became one of these sci-fi’s playing in an imaginative past (?), like “Mad Max” or “Highlander”. Christopher Lambert is the mysterious stranger Beowulf who travels to a castle to fight the beast Grendel who kills all the inhabitents. The superhuman Beowulf falls in love with wonderbra Kyra and of course kills the supernatural beast and all ends happily. Alright.

The Belly Of An Architect * Peter Greenaway * 1987

For a Greenaway film, this one is very ‘normal’. The film has a story which is shown chronologically, there are no stretched scenes with repetative music, no picture-in-picture or strange montage, no explicit nudity or absurd sexual moral (only a wife cheating). Fortunatly it does have a Greenaway atmosphere, but not too much. I think this is a Greenaway for a larger audience.
Stourley Kracklite is an American architect whose lifework is an exibition about an obscure but influential French architect. The final stage of the work is the preparation of the actual exhibition in Rome, but this soon proves to be Kracklite’s end. His wife leaves him, he gets very sick and looses control over the exhibition.
“The belly of an architect” is a nice film which is completely covered by the title. Nice, but for Greenaway standards maybe too normal and average …?