Uncompromising, hallucinatory, and certainly not for all tastes, The Forbidden Room, from directors Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson, is a stylistic tour de force for everyone involved, and a further reminder that there are cinematic artists out there who are pushing the limits and expectations of even the most seasoned and discriminating of viewers. The highly expressionistic/impressionistic cinematography by dual shooters Stéphanie Anne Weber Biron and Ben Kasulke is nothing short of spectacular, producing a phantasmagoria of images, all of which consumes the viewer with ferocious intensity that some might feel suffocated, if not continually startled. Similar in tone and spirit to something like Ben Wheatley’s bravura A Field in England but wholly original on its own terms, this is a work that’s best to be experienced rather than cajoled into seeing. Check out the trailer, and you’ll know within 20 seconds if this is something that you might enjoy or respond to. Starring some familiar faces including Charlotte Rampling, Mathieu Amalric, and Udo Kier (a frequent Maddin collaborator), this is as non-linear and esoteric as it’s likely going to get, a true piece of challenging art cinema that’s likely to frustrate and excite in equal measure. The rough “plot synopsis” sounds as if you are making it up as you go along; I’m not going to bother with a point by point, blow by blow summation of this film. Initially, this isn’t a movie to study on a micro level, but rather, The Forbidden Room is the true sum of all its wild and crazy parts, a nightmarish odyssey into cinematically strange territory, with a distinct point of view that elevates it from just being weird for weird’s sake. And if you’re a fan of it, The Forbidden Room will likely engender multiple viewings, so as to dissect all that’s being hurled at you, and all that’s being discussed within its dense, thoughtful, and metaphorical narrative. It’s also interesting to note that the film was shot in various public studios (interested parties could visit and attend the shoots) at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, France and the Centre PHI in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Guy Maddin has always been a provocative filmmaker, and with his latest project, he’s again conjured up something totally unique and oddly special.
Ron Shelton’s Tin Cup is one of my absolute favorite romantic films ever made. But it’s more than a great romance – it’s a great sports movie, it’s a terrific buddy film, and most importantly, it’s a wonderful piece about human beings and all their persistent foibles and inconsistencies. Starring an amazingly relaxed and extra charming Kevin Costner as a should’ve-been/could-still-become golfing legend, he was paired up with the effortlessly sexy Rene Russo, and bam! Massive screen chemistry! They seriously smolder in this film, looking totally in love, and sharing such a great sense of old-school charm and rapport with each other that I’ve long considered this to be one of the most under the radar movie romances that I’ve ever seen. The golfing footage is remarkable on a technical level, there are more than a few major comedic set-pieces, and the final 20 minutes are lump-in-the-throat perfect. I’ve always been a big fan of Costner, and this is easily one of his best performances, if for no other reason that he just seemed so at ease in Roy McAvoy’s skin. And, if rumors are to be believed, Costner handled most of the golf action on his own, which is probably why the entire film feels so authentic when out on the course. An impressive supporting cast of colorful character actors were along for the ride, including Cheech Marin as Costner’s faithful caddy, and Don Johnson as the oily romantic and sporting rival. Shelton has long been an ace in the hole for me as a filmmaker, having crafted some of the A-1 best sports movies of all time – Bull Durham, Cobb, White Men Can’t Jump, and the hugely underrated Play it to the Bone are all directorial efforts, while he also mixed in some genre efforts with the cop sagas Dark Blue and Hollywood Homicide, while also contributing to the scripts for Michael Bay’s Bad Boys II, the underrated actioner Under Fire, and William Friedkin’s college basketball expose Blue Chips. But it’s Tin Cup that I find myself continually revisiting; it’s a comfort blanket movie that feels just right.
The late Tony Scott and Denzel Washington collaborated on five films, the second last of which is underrated sci fi thriller Deja Vu. It contains Scott’s trademark visual style, all skitchy sketchy frames, deliriously rapid editing and deep, gorgeously saturated colours that pisses a lot of people off in its garish, flippant aesthetic. I for one love his style, and here he is coming down off the high that was his masterpiece, Domino, exercising restraint that was no doubt mandated by the studio bigwigs. Nevertheless, the same unmistakably heightened forces of filmmaking that flow through the veins of this crackling thriller can be found in most of his work, just in smaller doses here. The film tackles a lot in its unassuming narrative, from terrorist bombing, an elliptical story that’s put in an otherworldly trance by a plot point involving a high tech time travel capability, and a surprisingly heartfelt undercurrant that somewhat sneaks up on you. During a captivating opening credit sequence, we see a horrific explosion onboard a navy transport ferry in the New Orleans harbour, killing over five hundred people including women and children. ATF Agent Doug Carlin (Washington) is called in to investigate, and before long his cunning intuition catches the eye of FBI Agent Pryzwara (an unusually calm Val Kilmer) who is spearheading a very hush hush investigative technique that’s being used to track the terrorist in the days leading up to the incident. What Kilmer doesn’t tell him is the mind-bending metaphysical implications of it, but keener Denzel gets wise to their act, and throws himself headlong into a quest to stop the bomber, save the mysterious Claire (Paula Patton, just phenomenal) who was murdered and has ties to the event, and reverse time. Denzel is an implosive wrecking ball of determination, his ingenuity and reserve made me wonder why Carlins career aspirations stopped short of the ATF. I don’t know why Patton isn’t in more films (she recently starred alongside Denzel again in the super fun 2 Guns), she brings a battered resilience to her work, and is a radiant beauty to boot. Peppy gerbil Adam Goldberg is the obligatory one liner spewing techie who’s got more going on than his exterior may read, and Bruce Greenwood is all stern bluster as the FBI honcho in charge. This film doesn’t often come up in discussions of either Denzel’s or Scott’s greatest hits, but it’s ripe for rediscovery and praise. Propulsive action, far fetched sci fi intrigue that’s hard to digest and follow, yet simultaneously wicked fun, and like I said before an emotional core that takes you by surprise. There’s a sentence that I internally intone to myself whenever I see a film, or aspects within a film that fire up my adrenal glands, tear ducts or simply rouse my soul. Be it a banger of an action sequence, a romance that hits all the right notes, a good old fashioned fantastical invention or visual flights of fantasy that stir wonder within me. That sentence is “This is why I watch movies”. I get no greater pleasure in my cinematic escapades than being able to say that to myself as my heart pumps to the tune of whatever grand spectacle I’m witnessing before me onscreen. I can tell you, the sentence was uttered while watching this one, and now that I think of it, pretty much every film in Scott’s portfolio. Highly recommended.
Tim and Frank sit down and gush about their love for STAR WARS. Topics discussed are the STAR WARS prequels, but we mainly discuss the genesis of THE FORCE AWAKENS and what we think might be happening. This is going to be the first of many STAR WARS themed podcasts from Tim and Frank. Enjoy!
Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice is soooooo 1969. A study and exploration of the shifting sexual proclivities of two married couples, not to mention a general roasting of overall social norms and familial expectations, this is a funny, dated, sexy movie, which further reinforces the notion that Paul Mazursky was totally in love with the female body. It’s also a film to directly challenge the grand institution of marriage and monogamy, with the screenplay bouncing back and forth between various points of view, all in an effort to try and understand the ultimate desires of individuals. But here’s the deal, and make no mistake – the bottom line is – if you were married to Natalie Wood or Dyan Cannon back in the day – cheating should NEVER have crossed your mind. All kidding aside, the idea that Wood would have been that cool with her husband shagging a 20 year old production assistant is something that more or less constitutes the ultimate male fantasy, but hey, it’s the movies, kids! But, we’re not all Robert Culp in his brown leather jacket and pant combo, so maybe I can see how this might have been acceptable (snort). Seriously – this film is so hysterical over sex, so passionate and so totally in awe of its two leading women that it might be seen as an obsessive’s guide to the female form. Chock full of nudity, playful banter, and scenes that would never, ever be repeated in a movie today, this film is yet another reminder of how interested Mazursky was in the human condition, and how men and women use sex and emotions to take advantage of any given situation or circumstance. Elliot Gould was terrifically awkward in an early leading role, while Wood and Cannon were too hot for words. One can totally see why this film catapulted Mazursky to instant stardom within the filmmaking community.
I used to own a copy of Richard Rush’s Color Of Night, and I could kick myself in the teeth for ever pawning it in times of financial despair. It’s one of the steamiest, wackiest and most ludicrous erotic thrillers that the 90’s has to offer. I’m not kidding, this one navigates its way to the edge of the map of believability and logic, and with a knowing wink, dives headlong right off the edge of it into realms of sweaty, sexy excess, characters so strange they seem to be from a looney toons episode directed by David Lynch, and a preposterous story that has to be seen to be disbelieved. That’s not to say I don’t like it; I love the hot mess and yearn for a re-watch, just as soon as I track down a dvd. Bruce Willis eases into the erotic tropes with gusto that would make Michael Douglas proud, playing color blind psychiatrist Bill Capa who gets a nerve shake-up when a distraught female patient (Kathleen Wilhouette in a cameo of gushing melodrama) takes a suicidal swan dive out of his forty story office to the NYC streets below. Soon after, he’s tasked with taking over a support group previously run by a colleague (Scott Bakula) who was murdered under mysterious circumstances. The group is populated by several oddball weirdos, one of whom may be the one who offed the good doctor Bakula. There’s tortured ex cop Buck (Lance Henriksen, always welcome and one of the only performers who takes things seriously here), OCD weasel Clark (Brad Dourif) and a host of others, all competing as to who can be the strangest red herring in the proceedings. Capa soon finds himself sexually involved with the impossibly sultry Rose (Jane March). And when I say sexually, I. Mean. Sexually. It’s hard to reach the clawing levels of heightened on-screen copulation that this baby throws at us without slipping into outright parody, and indeed sometimes it feels like we’re watching the 9/12 Weeks spoof scene in Hot Shots Part 1. It helps though, that March is breathtakingly sexy and spends a solid slice of the film absolutely in the nude, and slathered with all kinds of fluids, bodily and other. What doesn’t help? Willis’s grizzly bear fur coat of a torso and the moment where he bears his wee willy winker dinker in naked glory, making sure that anyone who didn’t quite get that image burned into their retinas with a similar scene in Pulp Fiction gets a glorious second chance here. Oh goody. Anyways, between bouts of feral coitus, Willis and March navigate treacherous waters to smoke the killer out and save their skins. They also get bothered by a bumbling detective (vivacious Ruben Blades) that would make Columbo proud. Supporting work is also provided by Kevin J. O Connor, Shirley Knight, Erick Avari, Eric Lasalle and Lesley Ann Warren who add extra incredulity to gild the already silly tone. It’s large. It’s loud. It’s oiled up. It’s a really unbelievable piece of violent eroticism, and despite everything… I loves me some Color Of Night.
Before John Carpenter’s Halloween, there was Black Christmas, and no it’s not a Tyler Perry holiday special. It’s a slick little slasher set in a 1970’s sorority house during Christmas break, when many of the girls have gone home. Suddenly mysterious phone calls start to plague the ones still there, and one by one a murderous, unseen prowler starts to murder them. The phone calls themselves aren’t overly threatening, but instead sound like the nonsensical babbling of someone who is a couple reindeer short of a sleigh, making them all the scarier. I remember watching this years ago and being far more creeped out at the phone calls rather than the actual murders. That is a perfect example of using atmosphere to get under your audience’s skin rather than straight up gore, and a testament to the fright films of the 70’s and 80’s, which really seemed to have all the atmosphere vs. gore dials in the right positions. This positively drips with tension and ambience. The silences in between screams are almost deafening in their vacuous anticipation of terror to come, and strange as it sounds, there’s actually a nice Christmas-y feeling in places where the fear hasn’t yet struck, despite it being a horror movie. Olivia Hussey plays Jess, the main target of the killer with appropriate wide eyed intensity, Margot Kidder is briefly seen as the house mother, and horror regular John Saxon shows up as a suspicious Police Chief as well. I’d say this one achieves a state of suspense and atmosphere that can step up to the same plate as Halloween any day, it’s just a little overlooked I suppose. The house they are in is the perfect setting, a sprawling Yuletide manor of creaky hallways, desolated basements, dark, dingy attic space and an uneasy thrum of awaiting gloom that gives the words Silent Night a new meaning. The poor girls just never know when a shrill telephone ring will slice through the eerie corridors, forcing them to answer it and hear an unnerving voice warble out “It’s me, Billy” on the other end.
PS: avoid the remake at all costs. It takes everything that was creepy and restrained about this classic and turns it into a disgusting nightmare.