Sunday, August 30, 2015
Bewildering soft-core weirdness from the 60s
"This painting is a bit obscure in meaning; it was painted by a madman a week before he died." so say Sybil, the fugitive on the run.. A conscious evocation of Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse, The Love Captive, is a 60s pioneering stream-of-consciousness sexual horror narrative in which a painting figures prominently as a metonymic representation of the text's overarching structure. This insightful comparison (if I do say so myself) only collapses once you realize that Virginia Woolf was one of the great writers of the twentieth century, whereas the makers of The Love Captive were probably drugged-out, illiterate maniacs.
A blonde woman steps out of a subway stop and strolls down Greenwich Village while a narrator monitors her, making sure not to help us at all by confining his observations to the visually obvious -- "she's evidently a stranger to these parts," he informs us. "With a [hand]bag like that, she could be a model, or an actress." Yeah. Thanks.
The woman, Jane, checks into a hotel and as the desk clerk moves his lips to the accompaniment of silence, we realize that the film has no synchronous soundtrack. Instead, director Larry Crane has tried to dub the film in post-production, and poorly -- spoken lines often follow lip movements by several seconds, or emerge magically from closed mouths.
Jane takes a guided tour of a museum of the macabre next to the hotel, and gets locked in. She appears to have done this intentionally. A vampire rises out of something, a hunchback shambles around for a while, and another vampire (indicated by the presence of makeshift fangs) is remarkably sanguine while a slobbery werewolf kind-of drools on her. Piercing screams surge from the soundtrack, but the vampire actually seems to be suppressing laughter. She and two other gals bob up and down with the werewolf for about five minutes and forty-five seconds while bongos play. Maybe they're supposed to be phantasms who haunt the museum, but it's hard to say for sure. Jane watches patiently, with no appreciable reaction.
Back at the hotel (the next day, the previous night, ten years later?), the desk clerk strolls in and casually undresses Jane, and the two make out while the narrator expresses his disapproval. Meanwhile Gail, another tenant, straps on a dildo alone in her room. Cops next door are pursuing a fugitive, Sybil, and play a series of tape-recorded accusations ("We know who you are, girly") through speakers pressed against the hotel-room wall. But they don't know which is Sybil's room and press the speaker to Gail's wall by mistake. Gail hears the disembodied voice, freaks out, and flees to Jane's room. Jane and Gail make out. This time, however, the narrator doesn't complain.
The sinister Sybil, as close to an antagonist as a film without a clear conflict can come, is unperturbed by the accusatory voices. She seduces the owner of the museum, then takes over the establishment after convincing him to go on a long vacation. Her guided tours are more suffused with sex and violence than the museum owner's had been, and she figures out how to make a little money on the side by selling Gail into prostitution. The cops come back and play the tape recording some more, once again using the wrong wall. This puts Jane into a confessional mood and she opens her closet door to reveal that she's been keeping the cowed hotel clerk in shackles as a "love captive." Once more the narrator disapproves. Where would we be without his moral guidance, I wonder? Trying to summarize this "movie" is like trying to tell somebody about a dream you've had. Its narrative is largely incoherent, and the only way to understand it at all is as the cinematic equivalent of a psycho-sexual rant. Then it starts to adopt a sort of deviant logic: the clumsy voice-overs throughout make the characters' conversations almost indiscernible from internal monologue, as though they were communicating by telepathy. The cops, with their motiveless surveillance and their accusatory tape recorder, embody a sort of hallucinatory paranoid delusion. In no way, though, is the film about these things; it's more accurate to say that the film is affected by them, that it is, on some level, an acting out of hallucinatory and delusional fantasy.
When Gail straps on the dildo while evaluating her reflection, Freud's primal scene and Lacan's mirror phase simultaneously spring to mind: "Aw, that should do it," she says, "I'd fool my own mother." She really wouldn't, of course - though she has this funny thing stuffed into her underwear she's still every inch a woman. Perhaps in her own mind she appears literally male, and this is Lacan in its essence: our sense of identity is troubled from the outset, presenting us with a self-image immediately distorted by cathexis and psycho-sexual illusion. Strange enough. Naturally Larry Crane manages to make it still stranger, introducing this fascinatingly perverse notion of fooling one's mother by wearing a prosthetic phallus. Fool her in which sense, Mr. Crane: by preventing her from recognizing you, or by using it and making her believe the phallus is the real thing?
This is one of many scenes that raise the question whether Larry has packed enough sandwiches for his picnic. It's probably relevant that the narrator never ponders the reason behind Gail's autoerotics, instead praising her for how well she's managed to make herself look like a man. I reach for the rewind button here, figuring I must have missed the scene that explained why Gail's doing this in the first place. But it's never explained, just as it's never explained why the two cops broadcast recorded accusations instead of eavesdropping, or why Jane imprisons the hotel clerk. They are simply to be taken on faith, just as the schizophrenic never feels it necessary to clarify the mechanisms by which he has mysteriously become Lyndon Johnson, or reveal who paid to launch the satellite that is now beaming microwaves into his brain. These events exist not to forward a plot or to get at any character's interior life* but to construct disconnected images. In other words, they are fantasies apparently intended to assuage the sting of some psychological pain, since obscured by the passage of time and by the sufferer's lack of insight.
This person suffering this pain is probably not Gail but the narrator - and probably, by extension, Larry Crane. Among those with severe personality disorders Crane is at least fortunate enough to be able to turn his image formations into feature films, however shoddily crafted. Another of his works - on my "to-see" list, as soon as I recover from this one - is instructively titled All Women Are Bad. Poorly sublimated much?
And yet for all The Love Captive's unembarrassed weirdness, it is most entertaining and informative (all the time despite itself) when you realize that this is, after all, a soft-core porno movie from the late 60s. This coarse act of genre classification serves to answer some questions, though maybe not others: why does Gail get mostly naked and strap on a dildo? Why does a werewolf appear from out of nowhere and molest a vampire, who also appears from out of nowhere? What's with all that languid bobbing up and down, and who's playing those bongos?
Well, the most obvious answer is that it's all an excuse to show nude or semi-nude women. And though that interpretation encourages a dismissive response to more interesting interpretations of The Love Captive, it also helps illuminate a notion that's lost in better-made adult films. Whatever else these movies are about, they are also about fantasy, and its oft-forgotten connection with confusion and pain. Remember that the next time you check out some flick such as White Bun-Busters or Gang-Bang Girls . They lie. At least The Love Captive gives it to you straight. M.W
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
You're indeed never too small !
My friends at Boat Angel family films have made a genuinely pleasant and kid friendly fantasy adventure for children of all ages or lets say anyone young at heart.
Jake and the Giants directed by Kent Butterworth may not have the big budget of your typical Hollywood animated blockbuster but it has all it takes to appeal to young kids. Watch the trailer below or hop on IMDB and learn more! Support independent cinema!
Watch out for Jake and the Giants at the American Film Market between November 4 - 11 at Santa Monica and help spread the word!
Sunday, August 23, 2015
Great stupid fun.. B & B super style!
This movie didn’t suck. It ruled! When I went to see Beavis and Butt-head Do America, it didn’t immediately occur to me how long it had been since I’d seen a film I could call truly remarkable. The dream sequence which opens the movie has the world’s most famous dilholes as modern-day King Kongs, stomping through a city and wreaking king-size havoc. They swat planes, crush cars, and reach at girls through broken skyscrapers, and it was hard not to read this gleeful gigantism as a metaphor for their own success.
Who would have thought, five years ago, that one of the surprise Christmas-season movie hits would be an almost incompetently animated feature about two chronic masturbators who are unwittingly guarding a secret weapon? Beavis and Butt-head creator Mike Judge stays true to the tone of his MTV series by piling on one ridiculous episode after another and adding a leitmotif of enthusiastic anal-cavity searches, and the movie is a ride worth taking.
Beavis and Butt-head fall asleep on the sofa and awake to find that their television has been stolen. Searching for the cathode rays they need to sustain them, they stumble into a room in a cheap motel, where they meet a very drunk and dangerous redneck who offers them money to go to Las Vegas and "do" his wife. Beavis and Butt-head can’t believe their luck: They’re gonna score! And they’re even going to get paid for it! Thus ensues a round-trip cross-country odyssey that includes peyote, guns, nuns, the duo's long-lost fathers (fathers and sons remain oblivious to their relationship), and a cameo appearance by a cartoon Bill Clinton. Even Easy Rider didn’t offer such a smorgasbord of delights. It is very easy to like this movie.
The thing that's always fascinated me about the legions of Beavis and Butt-head fans is how they seem to feel like they have to justify it. "Hey, I went to school with people like that," they will say, defensively with an undercurrent of apology, as if acknowledging a visible birthmark. I've often tried to figure out what's implied by that statement and its remarkably few variations.
We don't necessarily watch programs which recall for us the caste system of our youth, or else, for instance, My So-Called Life would never have lacked for viewers. We don't necessarily watch what assures us of our superiority to the life forms onscreen. You went to school with people like what? People without ambition, shame, or the communication skills necessary for successful negotiation outside a small homogeneous circle. (Huh huh huh – I said "homo.") People who make a career out of sitting in the back row of the classroom, willfully not learning anything. People left to their own insufficient devices, so much the objects of derision that this defines their social existence.
If you didn't know I was talking about Beavis and Butt-head, would you still be settling back in anticipation of a punchline here? And, at the risk of being accused of various hypersensitivities and/or sympathies, would the moronic duo be as funny if they weren't middle-America white boys? My own theory is that B & B creator Mike Judge has tapped into the zeitgeist (and don't tell me that the trend is played out; I was in the line that snaked around the corner of the theater, and I've seen the grosses) by discovering a strain of humor just short of real horror. Because at face value, Beavis and Butt-head are castaways, doomed to a life at the helm of the deep fryer. I don't want to lose sight of the discontinuity between sociology and entertainment.
And I'll be the first to admit it, Beavis and Butt-head are really, really funny. This, I think, was Judge's intention, back in the days of animation-festival shorts featuring the boys – the I-can't-believe-my-reaction reaction. "Frog Baseball" hits the same chord as does the scene in Goodfellas where Joe Pesci shoots the kid in the foot during a card game for not bringing his drinks fast enough. It can be exhilarating to watch something so gross, or so violent, because it confirms our collective address not in the same neighborhood as such acts as these. I bet you didn't go to school with guys like Beavis and Butt-head. The ones you're thinking of as cartoonish hammerheads nevertheless had some level of self-awareness, and they either knew exactly what their place was in the pecking order (and I bet they started working out) or bamboozled themselves into thinking that the idea of a pecking order was society’s malicious joke (and I bet they got knives, or had restraining orders slapped on them). Or, more recently, they made the decision to embrace Beavisness and become louts on purpose, because Fools have a slight handicap in the social game and can at least rise above the bottom. Have some self-awareness yourself, and think about it for just a moment: Beavis and Butt-head have crossed the line, and they are cartoons of cartoons.
It was MTV that brought Judge's rude conception to its apotheosis. On one early episode of B & B, one of the boys says, "Man, the last eleven videos have sucked. Maybe the next one will be better." After the initial novelty of MTV wore off – and what with the game shows and gimmicks and all, this probably took a lot longer than it should have – that attitude is what we were left with. When Beavis and Butt-head assumed their places on their sofa in front of their crappy TV set, it was like the royal wedding of ennui and anomie. I can attest that the appeal is hard to resist.
I used to live in a house full of marginally employed men in their early twenties, and B & B with Olde E was the highlight of the day. Someone would go from bedroom to bedroom knocking on the doors and saying, "Time for church!" Bad day on the job? Bad day not having a job? Feeling like a loser? Don't worry, Beavis and Butt-head will never make you feel worse. Because Mike Judge knows that his program is a spectacle but the spectacles themselves are blissfully unaware, you can laugh at and laugh with at the same time – in this sense the program is one smart product.
James Wolcott wrote in The New Yorker that after watching many hours of Beavis and Butt-head in order to write an article on the series, it was weird to see videos without the yellow B & B logo in the corner, as if it were the series that identified the network instead of the other way around. The increasing tendencies toward the hormonal and the ironic (Remember J.J. Jackson? Martha Quinn?) in MTV's staff and programming would suggest that the network has embraced the laugh-at/laugh-with aesthetic. In this sense the patients are running the asylum. Beavis and Butt-head engender a sense of anarchy and liberation which is missing from most of what we can see on television – what's not to like?
I know: the movie, the movie. We are here today not to explicate Beavis and Butt-head but to praise them. You have to accustom your eyes and your brain to the low production values onscreen without the respite of videos, but Judge keeps the action moving briskly, and there are pseudo-video segments such as Beavis and Butt-head's dance-floor antics in Las Vegas, Mr. Van Driesen's hilariously, unconscionably P.C. "Ode to a Lesbian Seagull" (sung by Tom Jones), and, best of all, the Starsky-and-Hutch-style opening credits. Everything is over the top except for our two stars, who manage to stay reassuringly in the gutter. It's great stupid fun, and we are all invited to be in on its central joke. Which is, of course, that the two biggest screw-ups on the planet save all the rest of us and are acclaimed as quick-thinking, selfless heroes. Beavis and Butt-head snicker, we chuckle, and Mike Judge laughs all the way to the bank. What a country! A.G
Monday, August 17, 2015
Evil robotic spiders from the future versus an acrophobic super cop!
This tacky sci-fi thriller from the 80s was written and directed by Michael Crichton. Yes, before he took off with big-budget projects like Jurassic Park, E.R or Disclosure. Crichton made tacky movies like Looker and this one. But there's one constant in his work - Conservative Technophobia! And even though this was pre-marketed with great fanfare, James Cameron's Terminator completely nailed it.
Tom Selleck plays Jack Ramsey, a cocksure cop on the Runaway squad. A few years earlier, Selleck passed on the lead in Raiders of the Lost Ark in favor of High Road to China. Apparently, he didn't learn from that mistake. Smart moustache, foolish choices. The very blonde Cynthia Rhodes plays Jack's new partner, who can't stop drooling over him. (Just like she threw herself at John Travolta in Stayin' Alive). Together, they hunt and kill robots on the rampage!
Technology is bad. It's supposed to be the future, and robots are working as maids and construction workers, so why are the cops driving Ford Tempos? Big Problem with this movie: robots aren't very scary. If you don't believe me, rent breastcentric filmmaker Jim Wynorski's Chopping Mall (1986), a cheesy horror movie where robot security guards zap teens with lasers. Although the movie is set in a mall, there is no chopping. I felt gypped but its at least good fun.
But I digress... Jack, a widower, has a young son and a robot housekeeper named Lois. She looks a lot like Rosie from The Jetsons. "Lois, you can't keep giving him hot dogs for dinner," says Jack. "It is all he would accept," says Lois. Jack's partner warns of the perils of the older model maidbots: "My mother had a Series 10. It kept burning the toast." or so the dialogues run.
KISS fame Gene Simmons is miscast as Dr. Luther, the mad scientist who is making the robots wreak havoc. He's got a big gun! It shoots heat-seeking bullets that can go around corners in pursuit of their targets! "You've heard of a bullet that has your name on it? Well, this one really does." Without the aid of his KISS makeup and costume and axe bass, Simmons has trouble being menacing. Even though he leers and over-acts, the other characters feel the need to keep reminding us that he's the villain. "This is a bad guy" "He's evil, I'm telling you!" "His name is Luther...like Lucifer." Luther launches little spider-like robots on his enemies. They're kinda cute. "My little machines will follow you wherever you go. They're loaded with acid!" C'mon, Gene, show us your tongue just once. No? You're no fun at all.
A cute looking Kirstie Alley plays Luther's secretary/girlfriend who helps Jack track down Luther, then reconsiders and begs forgiveness. Luther kisses her, then stabs her in the back of the head! Yeah, her head!
In the first reel, we're told that Jack has only one weakness as a supercop - he's pathologically afraid of heights. How ironic that the finale takes place at a skyscraper construction site! Luther has kidnapped Jack's son and climbed to the top. And the spiderbots are everywhere! RENT IT YOURSELF to see the exciting conclusion. I'll tell you this much--the spiderbots kill somebody and it's not pretty. I won't tell you who, but apparently they like ham. Also watch out for Jerry Goldsmith's great score, it was his first all electronic soundtrack.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
The weirdest Alt rock album to ever sell a million copies
The English rock band Radiohead’s fourth studio album, the radically different Kid A severely divided critics when it was released, some ruing that it probably would not sell many copies. Cant blame them too much because this is indeed a challenging, often downright confusing piece of music that will leave even ardent Radiohead fans scratching their heads. The trademark guitar bits are few and far between, there are large chunks of experimental avantgarde orchestration, the vocals are often ambient & distorted, and the songs rely more upon mood and rhythm than actual melody. No wonder Radiohead chose not release a single from this album – there simply aren’t any either
But while Kid A is a difficult record, it is also an extremely rewarding one. In fact, it is a reason why Kid A is still remembered as the best album of the year 2000 and a deserving winner of a Grammy award for the Best Alternative Album. One could say, no other album released in 2000 even came close to matching the daring and complex artistic vision that Radiohead brought to life with Kid A. While evidently a giant leap away from Radiohead’s early guitar-based brand of rock and roll, Kid A was as big a leap from 1997's OK Computer as OK Computer was from 1995's The Bends. At the time, OK Computer sounded like an exciting and entirely new direction for modern music. Instead, we now realize that Radiohead was just taking a small step forward with that release.
On Kid A's hypnotic opener, “Everything in its Right Place,” lead singer Thom Yorke repeats the song’s title as a mantra. This song could be about our search for order in a society that is beginning to lack any semblance of order – a time when nothing was/is really in its right place. Even as Yorke sings, his own vocals are repeated back to him backwards and distorted – out of place. Later, the heavy bass line of “The National Anthem” propels Yorke to new heights of angst and tension. The last three minutes of this track is a wonderfully chaotic piece of experimental jazz – horns wail, screech and collide to create a sheer wall of noise.
Kid A then returns to earth with “How To Disappear Completely,” a song that features acoustic strumming coupled with a simple, wailing two-note echo. Heartbreaking in its beauty and simplicity, this track ranks right up there with Radiohead’s best work yet. Yorke’s high-pitched vocals perfectly complement the other instruments as the song enters an achingly moving rhythm.
While there’s technically not a “single” from Kid A, “Optimistic” was the first song sent to radio stations and has been called the “target track” by some of the band’s publicity. This claustrophobic-sounding track finds Yorke singing, “You can try the best you can/ The best you can is good enough.” Later, “Idioteque” opens with an electronic drum rhythm followed by a wash of keyboards. Yorke repeats the line, “Ice age coming” with a growing intensity as the track progresses. This psychotic episode is similar in form to OK Computer’s “Climbing Up the Walls.” Kid A closes with “Motion Picture Soundtrack,” an epic, plaintive ballad with Yorke singing, “I think you’re crazy/ Maybe.”
Fifty years from now, young bands will still be inspired by the music Radiohead has created on albums such as The Bends, OK Computer and Kid A. With these three albums, Radiohead established themselves as one of the most important and most creative bands of the 90s/2000 era. So even if Kid A didn't please all critics, you can be rest assured that people will still be listening in the future to Kid A long after most of those other bands have long gone. As a matter of fact, it still ranked 67 on its Rolling Stone list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
Sunday, August 9, 2015
Much more than just a rarefied vacuum of a shared obsession
It happened to me again last weekend. At my cousin's birthday party, which I had not expected to be a stinker by any means but honestly had neither expected to put me in a state of being all fired up about anything – no offense, cousin, and many happy returns – one of the party guests and I discovered that we were both cinemaphiles or shortly cinephiles. ("Movie freaks" is probably the term everyone else in attendance would have used, but we wouldn’t have heard them call us that or worse, because we were operating in the rarefied vacuum of a shared obsession.)
And suddenly there was one of those moments that all of us movie freaks simultaneously crave and dread: "All right," said my cousin’s friend, giving me a sly look as if he had my number and it wasn’t as great as I thought it was (We love that look!), "Night on Earth."
What the look and the identification mean, loosely translated, is as follows: "It seems to me from my interaction with you thus far that your film creds check out and that you are at least of mammalian-level intelligence. I now wish to bring our collegial vibe to a slightly higher frequency and either build a sense of case-specific solidarity with you or see with what bonhomie and pluck you are able to argue your opposition to my perspective. The film I have most recently named is one which, for some reason which I will later describe, resonated powerfully with me. Without having clued you in to that reason, I will now judge you based on your response to the same film"
Got that? I will judge you. I’m not judgmental, we say, and Everyone is entitled to an opinion. Mostly this is true. You like dogs? I prefer cats, big deal. But it’s the case that in some ways it’s easier for me to be friends with someone whose politics I almost loathe, for instance, than with someone who thinks that Robert Altman's Nashville is boring and dated. And, as Don Corleone said, it’s nothing personal – this film meant something to me, note emphasis, and if it left you cold, then I am left with a practical tool, a partial map of what you and I won’t have in common. Why shouldn’t I have that? Why shouldn’t I want it?
Sometimes a movie is more than just a movie; sometimes it is a thing to go to battle over. It’s as if I’m both dictator and loyal resident of a peaceful, neutral republic (work with me on this metaphor, if you would), the boundaries of which are constantly being redrawn.
I can give you directions to get there, I can brief you on our constitution, but I can’t promise you a visa. For that, you have to be of some proven use to me and my country: a friend of the cause, or something against which I can set myself and look all tough and purposeful and not impotent. (Do I take myself way too seriously here? Please go ahead and judge me, judge me right back.) When confronted with a circumscribing challenge like I was at the party, I similarly have two options, diplomacy or nationalism. "It was all right; on the whole I enjoyed myself," I can say when I don’t want to risk being offensive (or when I don’t want to bother engaging an uninspiring opponent in a skirmish), or I can channel the spirit of Tom Paine and start declaiming. On the basis of my fervor, I declare my due citizenship.
Back to the party. It so happens that yes I do have strongly held beliefs about Night on Earth, and about one segment in particular. At a cozy family party of all places, where I didn’t know any of the non-family guests, maybe I should have just bowed and smiled. Instead I swung the bat hard, and I can still hear the whistle of it slicing through the air. Times like that remind me all over again why I love movies. Thanks for stopping by. Let us know what you think. A.G
Sunday, August 2, 2015
Its been a busy month but here are some of the films that have kept me awake.
Armored (Nimród Antal, 2009, Crime, Thriller) - With a stellar cast comprising Matt Dillon, Jean Reno, Skeet Ulrich, Lawrence Fishburne, Fred Ward and more, this should have been a winner. Yet, this 2009 heist gone wrong thriller of Armored Guards making the perfect robbery has an uncanny feeling of “been there, done that” throughout its 90 minutes runtime. However, if you have nothing else to do and are willing to ignore the countless clichés, it’s a not so boring time passer. This is a dissapoitment considering its from the same director who gave us the Kate Beckinsale horror film Vacancy (2007) and the superb but dark Kontroll (2003).
Der Baader Meinhof Komplex / The Baader Meinhof Complex (Uli Edel, 2008, Crime, Thriller) - Based on the best selling book of the same name by Stefan Aust, this is a sensational piece of German cinema chronicling the rise of the left wing Baader Meinhof (Red Faction) radical group that was famous in the 1970s and the 1980’s for staging audacious arson attacks and bombings in West Germany and beyond. With spotloss performances from it stars Moritz Bleibtreu, Martina Gedeck and Johanna Wokalek and a water tight screenplay, this is a pleasure to watch. No reason why this was nominated for an Oscar under the Best Foreign Language Film in 2008. Truly unmissable.
Lucky Luciano (Francesco Rosi, 1974, Crime, Drama) - This Italian-American co-production was a disappointing attempt to cash in on the Godfather craze of the early '70s. The talented Francesco Rosi, known for capturing detail in his films, here uses authenticity to his disadvantage. The movie plays like a mediocre documentary. It is disjointed, with frequent crosscutting between New York and Italy and unannounced flashbacks and flash forwards. Gian Maria Volante, a very good actor, does a credible job here as Luciano when he speaks Italian, but when he speaks Brooklynese English his voice is poorly dubbed.
Peggy Sue Got Married (Francis Ford Coppola, 1986, Comedy, Fantasy) - Never has Coppola been so lighthearted and romantically bittersweet as in this candy-colored retro fantasy that was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Actress, Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design. Kathleen Turner delivers an impressively nuanced performance as a soon-to-be-divorced woman who goes back in time to the '50s at her high school reunion. Suddenly she's a cheerleader dating her future husband again (played with false buck teeth and unintended Pee Wee-isms by Nicolas Cage). What would Peggy Sue do if she could change her destiny? Funnier, flakier and more poignant than the similar Back To The Future (1985). Kevin J. O'Connor makes an impressive debut as the wild-eyed, poetry-spouting Kerouac clone Peggy Sue secretly desires.
The Servant (Joseph Losey, 1963, Drama) - In his first collaboration with playwright Harold Pinter, exiled director Losey creates a stunning surrealist look at power plays and decadent perversity in the relationship between a handsome, very proper member of the British upper crust (James Fox) and his seemingly dutiful manservant (Dirk Bogarde). All runs smoothly in their tasteful townhouse until the arrival of Bogarde's so-called "sister" (played with youthful sensuality incarnate by a nubile Sarah Miles). Then all hell breaks loose, including the notorious concluding orgy scene. A distinctive ever roving camera, brilliant performances and psycho-sexual dynamics with homo erotic overtones make this one of Losey's best.
Under Fire (Roger Spottiswode, 1983, War, Drama) - A gravel-voiced Nick Nolte stars as a photojournalist asked by Nicaraguan Sandinistas to photograph their murdered leader as though he were alive to save their cause. This easy-to-swallow primer of Nicaraguan Revolution that toppled the Somoza regime has lots of great kinetic action complemented by a great Jerry Goldsmith score. Cinematography by John Alcott (who shot Kubrick's Barry Lyndon) is consistently inventive. Good peripheral performances from Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Joanna Cassidy (who has a stunningly cool-sensual presence) make this a solid political thriller along the lines of Costa Gavras' Missing (1982).