Brattle Theatre Film Notes Posts

July 28, 2006 / / Film Notes

Written by Jason Haas

Italy, 1945. 100 min. Excelsa Films.
Cast: Aldo Fabrizi, Anna Magnani, Marcello Pagliero, Vito Annichiarico; Cinematography: Ubaldo Arata; Produced by: Giuseppe Amato, Ferruccio De Martino, Roberto Rossellini; Written by: Sergio Amidei, Federico Fellini, Roberto Rossellini; Directed by: Roberto Rossellini

Roberto Rossellini is commonly regarded as one of the true masters of Italian neo-realism, and Rome is often—though erroneously—pointed to as the first neorealist film.  While Rossellini was certainly working towards an aesthetic of realism, Rome is not his most representative neorealist work—melodramatic and propagandistic in places, it undermines its ability to depict the life of the average person.  Nevertheless, with Rome, Open City, Rossellini paved the way for the more immediate, raw aesthetic that has come to define the field of independent cinema.

July 26, 2006 / / Film Notes

Written by Chris Kriofske

USA, 1975. 94 min Cast: Edith Bouvier Beale, Edie Beale; Cinematographer: Albert & David Maysles; Producers: Susan Frömke, Albert & David Maysles; Directors: Ellen Hovde, Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Muffie Meyer

Despite the current ubiquity of tabloid and reality-based television, if you’re viewing Grey Gardens for the first time, you really haven’t seen anything quite like it. Even if you’re familiar with the Maysles Brothers’ other “direct cinema” (cinema verite) documentaries, arguably none of their subjects are as memorably eccentric as 79 year-old Edith Bouvier Beale and her fiftysomething daughter, Edie.

July 21, 2006 / / Film Notes

Written by Sasha HuzsvaiÂ

Japan, 1988. 86 min. Tokuma Japan Communications Co., Studio Ghibli. Voices: Dakota Fanning, Timothy Daly, Elle Fanning, Pat Carroll; Music: Joe Hisaishi; Produced by: Toru Hara, Yasoyoshi Tokuma, Rick Dempsey; Written by: Hayao Miyazaki, Cindy Davis Hewitt, Donald H. Hewitt; Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki

During my childhood, I must have watched My Neighbor Totoro a hundred times, and it has never lost its magic for me, even until this day. It’s strange sitting down and trying to put the essence of this film into words, because even now, when I’m grown up and expected to be able to analyze, to break down into pieces and build up again, to self-examine, My Neighbor Totoro remains intact, impenetrable, like a vision half-glimpsed but never quite within reach. For me, at least, it’s synonymous with my own childhood, and it can’t be separated from myself and broken down into categories of good or bad, exciting or dull. Now, when I think of the details burned into my memory when I was seven – the Cat Bus, Mei running through the rice fields, the impish dust bunnies floating through the air – it’s hard to separate those memories from myself, because they shaped who I have become.

July 21, 2006 / / Film Notes

USA, 1987. 85 min. De Laurentiis Entertainment Group/ Renaissance Pictures. Cast: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks, Kassie DePaiva, Ted Raimi, Denise Bixler; Music: Joseph LoDuca; Cinematography: Peter Deming; Edited by: Kaye Davis; Produced by: Robert Tapert & Bruce Campbell; Written by: Sam Raimi & Scott Spiegel; Directed by: Sam Raimi

The Evil Dead was a film that beat the odds. It was helmed by a nineteen year-old working on his first feature, starred a bunch of unknown and largely untested kids, and financed mainly by Michigan dentists who believed in the young director and his friends when they pitched their movie. It was years after principal photography ended that The Evil Dead was finally completed and given theatrical distribution. It took still more time for this flick about five kids getting possessed by demons and most disgustingly destroyed while staying at an isolated cabin in the woods to gain popularity (and notoriety) on the video rental market. Word-of-mouth finally spread about this weird piece of work – a torrent of blood and gore made up of wild camera angles, arch surrealism, and oftentimes unintended humor.

July 21, 2006 / / Film Notes

Written by Kris Tronerud

“(The Zombies) are alienated creatures who live on the fringes of society… the revenge of those defeated in life.”
– Lucio Fulci

As the crunching sound of slow, shambling footsteps and ominous musical cues are heard, he (or she) lurches onto the screen, slow, rotting, dangerous and… dead. It’s that favourite cinematic baddie of eighties film, the only movie monster that’s easier to get away from than the Mummy: the Zombie! Briefly popular in the 30’s in such films as White Zombie and Val Lewton’s I Walked with a Zombie, the zombie has made a roaring (shuffling?) comeback in such recent hommages and remakes as 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead and zombie pioneer George Romero’s long awaited sequel Land of the Dead; and while the general filmgoing public probably thinks of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead as the start of the World-wide Zombie film craze of the 80’s, that scurrilous honor actually belongs to another film, the still-notorious Zombie, directed by the late, lamented Lucio Fulci.

July 14, 2006 / / Main Slate

by Jason Haas

Gilda is a strange movie, and an unlikely classic. Artistically, it is no failure, but it is also far from an unqualified success. It is often mentioned in the company of the most famous film noir pictures, but it manages only to borrow from the genre without having many of the classic elements of noir. Instead, the movie turns on the personality and star-power mega-wattage of Rita Hayworth. Columbia boss Harry Cohn developed the film as a vehicle for this starlet on the rise, and few if any of her other films contributed so notoriously to her fame. While some of the star-vehicle concessions should just have turned Gilda into a passably entertaining film that time forgot, Hayworth does something rare – she earns the attention the camera gives her.

July 7, 2006 / / Film Notes

Written by Kris Tonerud

Japan, 2005. 124 min. Kadokawa Eiga K.K./ Nippon Television Network Corp. Cast: Ryunosuke Kamiki, Bunta Sugawara, Chiaki Kuriyama, Hiroyuki Etsushi Tokoyawa; Music: Koji Endo; Cinematography: Hideo Yamamoto; Produced by: Fumio Inoue; Written by: Hiroshi Aramata and Takeshi Miike; Directed by: Takeshi Miike

One can only imagine the discussions that must have taken place in the boardroom of Daei, the venerable Japanese Studio that has for decades played Paramount to Toho’s MGM, concerning the proposed revival of the beloved Children’s Cultural Phenomenon known as the Yokai Monsters; a series of Manga, TV Series, and feature films based on Shinto and secular folk tales, hugely popular in Japan throughout the sixties. A studio flack, with more inspiration than brains, says “I think we should offer it to Takashi Miike.” A stunned silence falls over the room. Miike?

June 26, 2006 / / Film Notes

Written by Jeremy Quist

US, 1956. 120 min. Cast: James Stewart, Doris Day, Brenda de Banzie, Bernard Miles, Ralph Truman; Music: Bernard Herrmann, Ray Evans, Jay Livingston; Cinematography: Robert Burks; Written by John Michael Hayes; Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

One of the most curious aspects of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much is that the man the title refers to spends most of the film not knowing much at all. What he does know is that a statesman is soon to be assassinated in London. But the reasons for this are not important; this is merely the MacGuffin – Hitchcock’s famously irrelevant plot device that serves simply to get the story going. All that really matters is getting the boy back.

June 26, 2006 / / Film Notes

US, 2005. Rated R. 102 min. Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, Michelle Monaghan, Corbin Bensen; Music: Scott Hardkiss, John Ottman, Lior Rosner; Cinematography: Michael Barrett; Written by Brett Halliday and Shane Black; Directed by Shane Black.

Shane Black, the writer and director of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, was the original Hollywood screenwriting fairy tale. At the age of 24, in 1985, he sold his first screenplay for a quarter of a million dollars and in the process invented a certain kind of action film that defined Hollywood in the late 80s and early 90s.

June 23, 2006 / / Film Notes

Written by Kris Tronerud

USA, 1933. 70 min. Paramount. Cast: Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo Max, with Margaret Dumont and Louis Calhern; Music: Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby; Cinematography: Henry Sharp; Produced by: Herman J. Mankiewicz; Written by: Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby; Directed by: Leo McCarey

In Woody Allen’s Hannah and her Sisters, Mickey (Allen), contemplating suicide, wanders into a repertory theater showing Duck Soup, and concludes that if life is good enough to produce the Marx Brothers, then it must be worth living. An entire generation of baby boomer moviegoers would not consider that an exaggeration, but the film now regarded as one of the best film comedies of all time had to wait 35 years to be considered as such.