This is the place to talk about films from around the world.


Postby A » Wed Nov 15, 2006 8:33 pm

Glad to see you reviewing this arsaib.

I purchased Dino Buzattis book as a bargain a few years ago but didn't try to read it until last year. Something about it intrigued me very much, but after reading a few (in teresting) pages at the beginning and the end, I thaught that the material was too "depressing" for me to read. Unfortunately I sold the book sometime later...

When I watched Pasolinis Edipo Re (196 the scenes of the film that were set in the present strongly reminded me of the little I had read of Buzattis novel, and a few weeks later I discovered by chance that there had been a movie based on the book. After some search on the internet, I stumbled upon some positive reviews and descriptions of the film as well as on the "forgotten" person of its director.

Too bad I'm not in the US, so I can't check out these films myself. But judging by people's reactions it would be worth purchasing at least "THE DESERT OF THE TARTARS".
Maybe you could expand a bit on your comments arsaib?
How does the filmmaking correspond to the story. Is it closer to Antonioni's or Visconti's style? What would you say?

And I'll trey to get a hold of the book again in the future.


Postby arsaib4 » Thu Nov 16, 2006 8:19 am

Thanks, A.

I initially watched this film a few months ago (I think I mentioned it earlier in the "last film seen" thread). It piqued my interest enough that I hunted down Buzzati's much talked about novel (called "The Tartar Steppe" in English). You're right, it is "depressing," and it's very surreal and psychological, part of the reason why it was said to be unadaptable. (Apparently, Perrin was the one who bought the screen rights. And as I hinted earlier, he had already worked with Zurlini.)

At the age of 17, Zurlini fought with the Italian Liberation Corps for a couple of years after the fall of Mussolini in 1943. Olaf Mller has stated that the residue of his experiences can be found in his early work (about a dozen shorts, which I haven't seen.) But Violent Summer, which is in fact set during that time-period, and The Desert of the Tartars also deal with war.

His films seem to have been made by a "thinker," with a pessimistic view of man's inherent shortcomings. "Zurlini's desparate vision of life led him to the two fundamental insights that inform all his work: just as death is certainty, it follows that relationships can never work and that love can't be kept alive -- and so it's best to abandon love while awaiting death" (Mller). And that's most apparent in films like Girl with a Suitcase, The Professor and Tartars. (I haven't seen Family Diary, a well-regarded film.)

Most of his films are small, intimate dramas. He perhaps wasn't a naturally talented stylist, so he studied art with the likes of Giorgio Morandi and Ottono Risai (the former was a renowned still-life and landscape painter). In fact, "La Torre Rossa," an Italian painting by Giorgio de Chirico, was what convinced him to shoot Tartars on-location in Bam. (Formally, he's neither Antonioni or Visconti, and so any sort of comparison would be unfair and unnessessary.)

The gaze his films project is an outward one, though not explictly one of emotional and spiritual death, but rather something even more metaphysical which, not surprisingly, is difficult to pinpoint.


Postby A » Thu Nov 16, 2006 4:53 pm

Thank you very much again.
Sounds like a filmmaker I should really check out.


Postby wpqx » Mon May 07, 2007 6:40 pm

The Spook Who Sat By the Door (1973) - Ivan Dixon

A film that genuinely terrified white people upon its extremely brief theatrical run. Sam Greenlee's book of the same name was something of a black power masterpiece, and was adapted in the wake of blaxploitation. Instead of petty revenge films about fighting "the man", Greenlee was openly advocating revolution. He described his book as a blueprint for guerilla warfare. The film naturally can't have as many details included, but it is a film that shows black people capable of organizing a widespread revolution. In the process Greenlee is vocally expressing everyone's contempt of black people.

Dan Freeman is his protaganist, but in actuality it is a barely distinguishable substitute for the author. Greenlee was the first black member of the CIA, and spent his time there doing little more than sitting still and looking pretty so they could boast they were "integrated". Always observant though, he learned everything he could, and moved to Chicago as a social worker. Freeman's character quickly trains local gangs in urban warfare tactics and they soon turn their energies against the white power structure. The picture was shot mostly in Gary, Indiana and was greatly helped by the cities black mayor, who allowed them full use of the cities police forces, and helicopter. Although set in Chicago's Southside, all of the shots of Chicago were taken "guerilla" style stolen without a permit. The film therefore has a startling immediacy.

After being a brief hit upon its premiere, the picture was immediately pulled. Chicago's then mayor saw to it that any theaters showing the film would be closed. The film was distributed by United Artists originally, because the filmmakers showed them nothing but the action scenes shot and presented it to the men as another blaxploitation film. The film survived because it was stored in an archive under a false name, only to be restored 30 years later. In the meantime the film has earned a reputation comparable to an urban legend. I was surprised as hell to see the film or that it had even been made in the first place.


Postby arsaib4 » Mon May 07, 2007 10:42 pm

Sounds interesting. How did you watch it?


Postby wpqx » Mon May 07, 2007 11:53 pm

It has since been released on DVD, and I checked it out of our library here.


Postby A » Tue Jun 12, 2007 11:20 pm

Yes, this definitely sounds interesting, and I've never even heard of it.
It's interesting to see how many films about black people and by black people where actually made during the 70s but got almost no attention, or were banned. It seems that only nowadays a lot of it has the opportunity to be seen by a wider public.
Do you happen to know how much research has been made about this period and the films (including blaxploitation) in the US, and if there are any decent publications on this subject.
I watched another African-american film at the cinema about two months ago, but fell asleep and missed almost everything (it wasn't because of the film; I was simply exhausted). But what little I saw and what I heard from the friends who had experienced it sounded like a serious work of art. It was Ganja and Hess (1973).
Anybody heard of it?


Postby wpqx » Wed Jun 13, 2007 9:12 pm

There have been a few decent books about the subject, but titles are alluding me right now.

My most recent cult film was Monte Hellman's Two Lane Blacktop (1971) which is strangely sublime. Such ambivalence throughout, but really intriguing. Perhaps the best film of Monte Hellman which unfortunately was kept out of print for a long time.


Postby A » Wed Jun 13, 2007 11:23 pm

What a coincidence. I'm watching the film right now, or rather trying to finish it for the past two days. I've only 30 minutes to go, but so far it has been so intriguing that I'm still trying to decide if I should merely finish it or watch it again from the beginning.
I have borrowed the DVD and another film by Hellman from a good friend.


Postby wpqx » Tue Jul 03, 2007 4:27 am

The Big Lebowski (1998) - Joel and Ethan Coen

Black comedy, bowling, and film noir don't necessarily seem like the most likely combo for a film, but damn it if that isn't exactly how to describe this film, which has become a modern classic since its original, somewhat forgettable release. Fargo was monstrous in its success, and I'm sure audiences at the time may have thought of this film as a step down. In the years since this film has probably become more ingrained in the popular culture, and certainly has carried a much greater cult following complete with Lebowski bowling tournaments, and several T-shirts of the Dude (Jeff Bridges), Walter (John Goodman), and even Jesus (John Turturrro). Nearly all of the Coen brothers films are based upon plot and this film is no different. However this film unwinds in a much more luxurious pace than the frantic twists and turns of previous films.

The Dude gets thrown into the mix as a partial genius slash complete buffoon who just happens to get pretty lucky repeatedly. Bridges seems to be challenging the slightly clumsy Philippe Marlowe of Elliot Gould in The Long Goodbye. As he tells Maude (Julliane Moore) "I'm keeping my mind limber with a wide regimen of drugs". Many critics thought the film was severely dumbing it down for audiences with lots of drug references, and Lebowski seems to have a White Russian in his hand any time he doesn't have a bowling ball. The film makes up for a buffoonish main character with a rather intricate plot that is full of double crosses and at least as many parties as a Chandler novel.

Still no doubt in my mind, and many other viewers the highlight of the film comes from the all too brief supporting work of John Turturro, a Coen regular who the two reportedly saw in a play where he played a Hispanic a decade before. Since that time they had been looking for a role to give him to fit that bill. His Jesus comes complete with hairnet and a purple jump suit, and every line of dialogue he has in the film is quotable. Not to mention Walter's line after he bowls "Dude, 8 year olds". Turturro has shined in supporting work, and has become something of a modern Anthony Quinn being called on to play nearly every ethnic group in the book. The film is a delight and like Raising Arizona probably the most compulsively rewatchable Coen Brothers film. If nothing else you can see what Tara Reid looked like before drugs and plastic surgery made her a freak show.


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