La Notte (1961, Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni) Italian 8

Starring Jeanne Moreau, Marcello Mastroianni, Monica Vitti, Bernhard Wicki, Maria Pia Luzi

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Bleak. Beautiful. Brooding.

La Notte, Antonioni’s mood piece, seems influenced as much by jazz music as by any film that came before it. The plot, if one exists, is irrelevant. The dialogue is almost exclusively small talk and the characters, specifically, the two leads, unhappily married couple, Lidia (Moreau) and Giovanni (Mastroianni), seem to consistently circumvent what it is they mean to say. Their story is told over the course of a night, beginning with a visit to a dying friend, and ending with a dubious reconciliation, and dubious reconciliation is actually my optimistic reading. A more negative view of the finale in which husband and wife talk, at last, would be to note that the wife is attempting to speak honestly and the husband is in denial. You could say that his kissing her in the end, rather than being romantic, is him willfully ignoring her. The entire film drifts through, a beautiful malaise. I look forward to revisiting La Notte at some point down the line.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(420)

Amarcord (1973, Directed by Federico Fellini) Italian 5

Starring Bruno Zanin, Magali Noel, Pupella Maggio, Armando Brancia, Maria Antonietta Beluzzi

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(5-Okay Film)

Exuberant. Irreverant. Episodic.

Robust, bawdy Italian epic from one of the medium’s masters, Federico Fellini. Amarcord is praised as one of his most personal, audacious efforts as he pulls together several stories into an unwieldy look at coming of age during fascism. Several memorable characters drift in and out of the picture: the local beauty, the mentally imbalanced uncle, the big-breasted tobacco vendor. Many will enjoy the irreverent tone and incredible technical skill of Fellini, but the latter was all I was interested in.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(392)

The Skin I Live In (2011, Directed by Pedro Almodovar) Spanish 9

Starring Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Marisa Paredes, Jan Cornet,  Roberto Álamo

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(9-Great Film)

Stunning. Mesmerizing. Potent.

Wow. I was determined to jump ahead of this film’s twists, and yet, I still found myself stunned and elated at its slowly unraveling plot. Beginning with Antonio Banderas as a renegade surgeon reeling from his wife’s death and Elena Anaya as his special patient/prisoner, the film jumps back and forth in time oozing sinister undertones and tossing out red herrings until the big moments that left me floored and unnerved. All the actors are quite good in Almodovar’s slightly campy, melodramatic manner, and the director once again proves to be a master at blending tones and styles.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(389)

Come and See (1985, Directed by Elem Klimov) Belarusian 5

Starring Aleksei Kravchenko, Olga Mironova, Vladas Bagdonas, Jüri Lumiste

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(5-Okay Film)

Monotonous. Striking. Dull.

In Belarus, 1943, a young boy, Flyora, joins the local resistance movement and witnesses the atrocities perpetrated by the occupying Nazis. With such a potent subject, how could I call this film dull? Even with a dozen or so piercing images and an unforgettable sequence early on where Flyora and a new companion make their ways across nearly gelatinous mud, Come and See is monotonous. Like many well-respected foreign films, it has one tone and never wavers for a second from it. It’s like being pounded in the head relentlessly until you get used to it and bored by it. Its style has garnered it many admirers. I’m not one of them.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(387)

Police Story 3: Supercop (1992, Directed by Stanley Tong) Cantonese 9

Starring Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung, Bill Tung, Yuen Wah

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(9-Great Film)

Goofy. Action-packed. Amazing.

Jackie Chan returns as Chan Ka-Kui, a talented cop always ready for action. Here, he teams up with Interpol Inspector Hana (Yeoh), in an effort to infiltrate a powerful drug lord named Chaibat’s operation, and put him behind bars. This involves Chan breaking Chaibat’s brother out of prison in order to gain his trust, and later he and Inspector Hana are hired as Chaibat’s muscle. Slightly more serious in tone than some of Chan’s other work, there’s still plenty of room for comic misunderstandings and physical humor, but mainly this fantastic action flick comes down to its stunts. Chan and Yeoh are tremendous. The final twenty minutes is one jaw-dropping stunt after another including Yeoh barely holding on to a bus on the fritz, or driving a motorcycle up a hill and onto a moving train, or Chan falling from a helicopter onto a train’s compartment full of porcupines. The trademark end reel wherein all the goofs are shown only highlights how dangerous the work was and how incredible it is that they pulled it off.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(372)

Belle de Jour (1967, Directed by Luis Bunuel) French 7

Starring Catherine Deneuve, Michel Piccoli, Jean Sorel, Genevieve Page, Pierre Clementi

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(7-Very Good Film)

Fascinating. Striking. Ponderous.

A satirical, almost whimsical tale about a bored young housewife, Severine (Deneuve), with seemingly everything, who becomes a high-end call-girl during the day time. Later, she meets and is oddly attracted to a local thug named Marcel (Clementi), whose obsession with her puts her duplicitous life in danger. A lurid, fascinating film by Luis Bunuel, considered one of world cinema’s old masters, Belle de Jour is one of the few he did that I’ve embraced. It’s regarded as a commentary on a woman’s fantasy life, but, as it’s written and directed by men, I think it has more to do with men’s fantasies about women. Deneuve’s Belle de Jour, as she is later called, is part classy, elegant lady, part prostitute. A feminine version of Venus in Furs’ Severin. In any case, the sordid story is handled with expert control and exuberant style.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(367)

Armour of God (1986, Directed by Jackie Chan) Cantonese 7

Starring Jackie Chan, Alan Tam, Lola Forner, Rosamund Kwan, Božidar Smiljanić

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(7-Very Good Film)

Frenetic. Action-packed. Fun.

Jackie Chan plays the Chinese Indiana Jones, roped into helping his ex-best friend and the girl that came between them. To save her, the two have to locate and bring in pieces of armour collectively known as the armour of God in exchange. They trace the treasure to an evil underground cult hidden in a monastery. Like the best of Jackie Chan’s movies, Armour of God is light on plot and heavy on action. He’s amazing, and his fight late in this picture against evil fembots is a standout.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(340)