October 18, 2012
August 27, 2012
August 23, 2012
August 20, 2012
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
by Douglas Messerli
Claude Chabrol (writer and director) Le boucher (The Butcher) / 1970
Despite the statements of numerous critics that Chabrol’s film Le boucher is filled with questions that are slowly answered over the course of the movie and, as Netflix’s site quotes Adam Gai, “The audience is kept in suspense up until the last shot,” I would argue that in this work Chabrol has created his most unthrilling thriller. For it is a work that has utterly no surprises, and because of that fact Chabrol is freed to show us film-making at its most abstract. We witness the process without having to be emotionally involved in plot.
Some of this lack of suspense occurs because, basically, there are only two characters in the film. The young married couple of the first scenes appear only briefly, despite the fact that the male is supposed to be a teacher in the same school where the central character, Helene Daville teaches. Although some of her students are more memorable than others, particularly the young man to whom she is trying to teach mathematics one late night, they are, nonetheless, as are the inhabitants of the small village near the Cougnac Caves where she lives, ancillary figures, unimportant to events. Even the mildly bothersome Police Inspector Grumbach offers little in the way of substance. Other than the beautiful and emotionally reserved Helene (Stéphane Audran) there is only her suitor, Popaul (Jean Yanne), a war-veteran who has just returned to his hometown to take up his father’s business as a butcher.
From the earliest scenes in the film, we recognize Popaul as being facile with knives—at the wedding ceremony with which the film begins he insists upon slicing the large roast by himself—and early on we recognize that he has been embittered by the gruesome violence of his war experiences:
Popaul: I’ve seen a corpse or two—their heads in the wind, cut in half, mouth
open. I’ve seen three or four piled together. Kids with their eyes punctured.
Indo-Chinese as old as Madame Tirrant completely torn to bits. I’ve seen pals
of mine rotting in the sun, being eaten by maggots.
Were we to encounter Popaul today, I would guess that many of us might suggest he seek help from a psychiatrist.
Accordingly, despite his gentle demeanor with Helene, when word of a brutal murder reaches the village, we have no choice but suspect Popaul. There is literally no one else to suspect, and any “reader” of such a work knows that it would a ridiculous and absurd tale if the murderer was someone whom he had never met. It is as if Chabrol has taken the old whodunit story and emptied it of all save two figures, one of whom we cannot imagine as the murderer, and whom we know cannot have committed the second murder since she is on an outing with her students when she and they discover the body, its blood dripping from it, almost comically, upon a young girl’s sandwich.
Chabrol takes this even further by having Helene discover at the scene of the crime a lighter (or one exactly like it) that she has given as a gift to Popaul. Since we know it must therefore be Popaul who has committed the two murders, any suspense of the film must depend less upon the discovery of the killer than the gradual discovery of who these two people are. It is their inner selves, not their grand actions that bring any meaning to the work.
Chabrol carries this idea of “no surprises” even further, comically commenting on it when, at the funeral of the second woman killed, Popaul, exiting the church, looks up at the rainy sky to say, “What a surprise!” Helene may have been surprised; she does not have an umbrella. But he and everyone else does, which they simultaneously open, recalling a similar scene from Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent, a parallel to the earlier reference, with the discovery of the lighter, to Hitchcock’s Strangers on the Train. No, it is no surprise that at such a sad occasion, rain should fall. And the natives have expected it.
What is surprising in this film is that Helene pockets the lighter without mentioning it to anyone. She is not only tampering with evidence but, by squirreling away the object, she is endangering her own life.
She has already spoken of the importance of Cro-Magnan man to her students, noting that if he had not brutally killed out of a need to survive that modern man would not be there today. We can only suspect, accordingly, that she sees her courtier-murderer, Popaul, as a necessary evil, someone who must do what he does in order to save the world, perhaps restoring the love she has relinquished.
Yet it makes no logical sense, and when she does encounter him that same evening, she is clearly terrified. Only when he produces a lighter exactly like the one she has found, can she again breathe easier, laughing behind her tears in relief.
If Popaul is psychologically disturbed, we now perceive that, in her inability to begin another relationship, she is psychologically scarred by her past as well. While she remains emotionally and sexually aloof from Popaul, she is also a kind a seductress, a woman seeking love despite her denial of it. As she quite straight-forwardly answers Popaul’s challenge:
Popaul: But, shit, if I kissed you now, what would you say?
Helene: I’d say nothing, but please don’t.
In short, she will not out rightly reject love were it to make its demands; she is simply attempting to protect herself so that love will make no demands. She is, in other words, a passive being; unlike Popaul, who makes things happen, who brings her food, fixes her lights, paints her rooms, who, in fact, admits that he wants to “look after her,” Helene can do nothing but exist, glowing in her beauty much like the light(er) she gives him. It is no accident that she provides the fire for the cut of meat his has brought her.
Only when Popaul discovers the hidden lighter, and, perceiving suddenly that she has found him out, steals it back, does Helene accept the reality that we have known all along. And it is only then that she can begin to function for herself, madly racing from door to door to lock herself away from the beast calling out. It is at that moment also when we perceive that Chabrol’s tale is not that of a murderer on the loose, but a kind of fable like Beauty and the Beast.
It is not her murder he seeks, but out of embarrassment for being the beast, ritual death. Even his sudden plunge of his knife into his own belly is not a surprise as much as an inevitability. It is only now that Helene can truly come into her own, reaching out to save him, to protect him from himself, just as she has mothered her students.
This time she allows him the kiss, but it is the kiss of death, too late to redeem the animal within.
Los Angeles, November 20, 2010
Copyright (c) 2010 by International Cinema Review and Douglas Messerli
this review first published here: http://internationalcinemareview.blogspot.com/2010/10/claude-chabrol-le-boucher-butcher.html
August 14, 2012
August 9, 2012
keep reading this review here: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/2012/cure-1997-2/14044/
August 7, 2012
this review by kathie smith was first published here: http://kathiesmith.blogspot.com/2009/05/na-hong-jins-chaser.html
August 5, 2012
this review first published here: http://www.mortado.com/gravemusic/index.php/Movie-Reviews/deadbeat-at-dawn-1987.html
August 2, 2012
Lost Classic: No Way to Treat a Lady (Jack Smight 1968)
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In Jack Smight’s criminally underappreciated No Way to Treat a Lady it proves to be the most effective and blackly amusing form of murder. Rod Steiger hams it up as murderous mother-fixated thespian Christopher Gill, donning various disguises and dispatching his victims with a quick strangle, leaving only a lipstick-on-the-forehead calling card. Beware of imitations.
The film qualifies as a lost classic in the sense that it is one of those titles to somehow have so far escaped a region 2 DVD release – region 1 copies are out there, if a little pricey – and doesn’t seem to have had a UK television airing for the longest time. It can’t even be found chopped up into little ten-minute-long pieces on popular video sharing websites, gosh darn it. This is a pity because it deserves to be seen and appreciated by fans of the serial killer police procedural subgenre whose bloody footprints lead all the way up to and beyond David Fincher’s Zodiac (2007), even though is it essentially a black comedy.
This was the first of two films released in 1968 based on the handiwork of serial killer Albert DeSalvo. The latter, The Boston Strangler directed by Richard Fleischer, is the one people tend to remember, thanks to its more sombre tone, a surprisingly nuanced performance from a putty-nosed Tony Curtis in the title role and the irritating then-fashionable use of split screen (see The Thomas Crown Affair for a better example) to reveal parts of its narrative. But No Way to Treat a Lady can at least claim to be first past the post in the subject matter race, having received its cinema release some seven months before the Fleischer movie.
It was in fact based on William Goldman’s 1964 novel of the same name, which manages to interweave the strangler plot with both comedy and romance, both of which are retained in Smight’s film. The casting of George Segal as Detective Morris ‘Moe’ Brummel and the never-lovelier Lee Remick as love interest Kate Palmer ensures that there is a lightness of touch to these lead performances, which helps to counterbalance the schizophrenic oedipal histrionics of Steiger. Indeed if the film has a fault it is Steiger’s tendency to let over-studied idiosyncrasy seep into his scenes; one can accept that he is ‘in character’ when about his deadly business but Gill’s believability is stretched to breaking point on several occasions. At times it feels like a Steiger showreel, designed to demonstrate the actor’s range of characterisations and accents. His final prolonged and camped up death scene is, quite frankly, off the scale. So much scenery is chewed one fears no amount of Pepto Bismol will help sort out the indigestion.
Although well written and, Steiger’s flamboyance aside, well acted, there is nothing especially spectacular about the direction. Smight had cut his teeth in television and it does show, although if you’re looking to reappraise his back catalogue and can’t get hold of a copy of No Way to Treat a Lady you shouldn’t have too many problems tracking down the William Goldman-penned Harper AKA The Moving Target (1966) or the portmanteau curate’s egg The Illustrated Man (1969), also starring Steiger, as further examples of films with above average scripts propping up his otherwise serviceable work. Completists are advised to seek out his contributions to 1970s TV series such as Columbo and Banacek for later examples of his bland efficiency.
What makes the film arguably more interesting than The Boston Strangler is that it manages to combine the standard elements of the police procedural blueprint, done solidly enough, with an interesting parallel drawn between Gill and Brummel. Through domestic scenes showing the nebbish detective being given the ‘your brother, the doctor’ treatment from his stereotypically Jewish mother (Eileen Heckart) and other resultant scenes charting his acute hang-ups around approaching women – his wooing of Kate is fraught with awkwardness – we are encouraged to spot the similarities between him and the killer his pursues.
But the treatment is anything but heavy, indeed it is frequently played for laughs, of which there are plenty to be found throughout the film. A personal favourite stems from the Police’s attempts to flush out the dressing-up-box killer through bogus newspaper reports of another murder. Cue the appearance of Mr. Kupperman (Michael Dunn), a person of restricted growth, at the police station with claims that it is he who is the murderer-of-a-thousand-faces. When Brummel patiently explains that the evidence suggests he is far too short to be the killer, Kupperman replies ‘you see – I’m a master of disguise’.
A further delight is Elieen Heckart as Mrs. Brummel who threatens at times to steal the show. One can tick off all of the stock-in characteristics of the New York Jewish mamma as they reveal themselves – overbearing, food-obsessed, doting, loving, anxious, the consummate working-class homemaker who is both disappointed with Moe’s career ambitions and protective of him when it comes to the opposite sex – she is even gifted with the title of the film in one of her lines: ‘I am sick at my heart when my own son goes looking at dead women’s naked bodies. I tell you Morris, it is no way to treat a lady.’
Review by Jez Conolly
this review first published here: http://thebigpicturemagazine.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=353:lost-classic-no-way-to-treat-a-lady-jack-smight-1968&catid=31:features&Itemid=59
July 30, 2012
July 25, 2012
Have you noticed that the rape scene from Irreversible can be downloaded on many porn sites? It gets uploaded quite often, complaints are received, and then it gets deleted. There’s something about that scene that no reviewer or film critic has gotten to. Something evil. That scene is to cinema what Stavrogin’s Confession in Dostoyevsky’s Devils is to the novel.
July 22, 2012
July 19, 2012
The season of the DVDSCR are well over. Now we might a get a few if we’re lucky enough. ELiXER, a pretty new scene group, yet a promising one releases a DVDSCR of The Gray Man. This one is a pretty interesting movie, the movie is a biographical thriller film based on the actual life and events of American serial murderer, rapist and cannibal Albert Fish. I recall watching and reading a lot about him and now i am surely gonna watch the movie. Sample or NFO does not show any type of watermarking or blurs.
A dedicated detective tries to capture Albert Fish, a serial killer who abducts, abuses, kills, and occasionally eats children, leaving no trace behind. Will the obsessive manhunt across several states succeed in apprehending the killer? Albert Fish, one of the earliest known serial killers of 20th century America, is the subject of this movie. A true cannibal. Compared to Albert Fish, Hannibal Lecter was a saint. Yet, this is definitely not your average horror movie. If you crave gratuitous violence, you ‘d better look elsewhere. Rather, this is the story of the hunter versus the hunted. Albert Fish leaves clues at the crime scene that the detective must follow. Soon enough, this is getting personal, a veritable clash of personalities.
Genre: Crime | Thriller
IMDB rating: 7.7/10 ( 62 votes)
Directed by: Scott L. Flynn
Starring: Patrick Bauchau, Jack Conley, John Aylward, Jillian Armenante, Silas Weir Mitchell
Release Name: The.Gray.Man.DVDSCR.XViD-ELiXER
Size: 690.98 MB
Video: XviD, 608×312, 29.9700 frm/s, 866.547 kbit/s
Audio MP3, 48000 Hz, 128.000 kbit/s, Stereo
Runtime: 96 min
this review was first published here: http://softatronic.blogspot.com/2009/04/gray-man-dvdscr-xvid-elixer.html
July 18, 2012
read the entire article by patricia maccormack here: http://sensesofcinema.com/2004/great-directors/fulci/
July 17, 2012
keep reading this review here: http://www.eatmybrains.com/showreview.php?id=173
July 16, 2012
John McNaughton’s directorial debut has been hailed as one of the best by any first-time director. I won’t be one to disagree with those who agree. McNaughton took $125,000 dollars, an idea of fictionalizing a week in the life of one real-life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, and a dedicated crew of filmmakers to create a raw, unflinching, visceral piece of filmmaking. Originally filmed and finished in 1986, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer languished in ratings limbo as the filmmakers struggled with the MPAA over its X-rating. In fact, it’s been reported and written in many publications that it is one of the few films screened by the MPAA where they saw no way an edit here or there can ever lower it to an R-rating. I think its fortunate for film fans and academics everywhere that McNaughton and company decided to release the film in 1990 unrated.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer was loosely-based on the life of one Henry Lee Lucas. One of the most prolific (though Lucas has since discounted ever killing over 600 people) serial killers in American history. From the beginning, Henry plunges the audience into a world seen through the eyes of a sociopath and as, Ebert once wrote in his own review: “an unforgettable portrait of the pathology of a man for whom killing is not a crime but simply a way of passing time and relieving boredom.”
The first scene is haunting in its graphic and realistic portrayal of the randomness of a serial killer’s passing through the myriad roads and highways that criss-cross the American landscape. It was this stark and realistic portrayal of the aftermath of violence and death that has made some people label McNaughton’s directorial debut as a snuff-film masquerading as an arthouse production. It’s difficult to disagree with such people since the violence (though it doesn’t go as far as most horror films of the era and barely a blip on the MPAA’s radar in today’s mega-blockbuster-shoot’em-ups) has no look of articiality and not glossed-over with your typical horror/suspense sensibilities. It doesn’t have that exploitation look that the horror films of the 70′s and early 80′s. What it did have was the look and feel of a documentary. The titular character (chillingly portrayed by Michael Rooker) commits his murders as one who sees nothing wrong in what they’re doing. To Henry what he does he does to pass the time and to break-up the boredom of his existence. This behavior shows the banality of Henry’s view of the world around him. It goes to show that as horrific as Henry must seem to the audience there’s a sense of reality in what he does. We read about it on the news, in true-crime documentaries, and in the sensationalist shows dealing with serial and mass murderers.
keep reading this review here: http://unobtainium13.com/2010/01/28/review-henry-portrait-of-a-serial-killer-dir-by-john-mcnaughton/
July 15, 2012
July 14, 2012
July 13, 2012
first published here: http://www.filmthreat.com/reviews/10949/
July 12, 2012
keep reading this review here: http://www.sheilaomalley.com/?p=9937
July 11, 2012
July 10, 2012
this review was first published here: http://www.acidlogic.com/ra_richard_speck_haunted_forest.htm
July 9, 2012
this review first published here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0244782/
July 8, 2012
this review by michael atkinson was first published here: http://www.villagevoice.com/2002-09-10/film/you-ve-got-a-fiend/1/