Digital Monkey Shines

Movies, Games and Other Diversions

Weekend Movie Report #2

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I was a captive audience through much of the weekend, so I worked on my unwatched movie stack–mostly titles starting with “M”.

Weekend Winner

Monsieur Ibrahim et les Fleurs du Coran (2003 François Dupeyron, French).  Omar Sharif still proves he has amazing screen presence in this odd French coming-of-age film.  A sixteen year-old fan of the neighborhood prostitutes develops a friendship with the local “arab” who runs the corner store, played by Omar Sharif.  Eventually the teen’s father dies, he is adopted by Monsieur Ibrahim, and they go on a road trip to Turkey.  It sounds like it shouldn’t work, but it does.  This film can perhaps be seen as a part of a long history of French memoir-films of boyhood (including The 400 Blows, Au Revoir Les Enfants, and even lightweight fair like Les Choristes).  Given France’s difficulty accomodating muslim practices in the past few decades, this film is especially interesting viewing.

Weekend Loser

Mondo Balordo (1964 Roberto Bianchi Montero, Albert T. Viola).  I think I mistook this for Mondo Cane when I bought it from Oldies.com, but it’s a similar sort of film:  little documentary tidbits intended to shock and amaze the viewers with a sort of carnival freak-show style.  Look, a crossdresser’s bar in Berlin!  Look, Japanese rope bondage!  Look, Jehovah’s Witnesses!  The only atmosphere for this one is provided by the victorian censure of Boris Karloff’s stiff narration.  Fans of exploitation cinema may enjoy it, but there are better diversions, in my opinion.

Honorable Mentions

Mother (2009 Joon-ho Bong, Korean).  Patience rewards the viewer in this film, a psychological thriller about the mother of a simpleton accused of murder.  Unlike Bong’s fine horror film, The Host, Mother takes time to get going, but the revelations and character development make the journey worthwhile.  I still cannot decide whether there is a certain type of Korean droll delivery that is cultural or an quirky artifact of Bong’s directorial style, but I found myself chuckling and not knowing why in odd moments.

Mon Oncle Antoine (1971 Claude Jutra, French).  The best of the two Québécois films I’ve ever seen, this is a memoir of life growing up in asbestos mining country working in the family general store under the titular high-functioning alcoholic.  Shares many warts-and-all qualities of French-language memoir films (see Monsieur Ibrahim, above).

The Unbeliever (1918 Alan Crosland).  This is reportedly the last film made by the Edison Company, featuring Erich von Stroheim in a villainous role.  As a historical experience, it was very interesting to see a film designed as WWI propaganda using actual Marines.  Not limited to marching in formation in the background, some marines are identified by rank and name in supporting roles.  I also found it interesting to see the odd conflation of social class-issues with the perils of athiesm.  My, how times have changed…

Mulholland Dr. (2001 David Lynch).  After torturing myself with Inland Empire earlier this year, I wasn’t sure I could do more Lynch.  I get it, he’s cool and arty and he talks about language of the cubists and the dadaists.  I also suspect that critical adoration of Lynch is more of an expression of disappointment with the film establishment than genuine appreciation of whatever it is Lynch is trying to accomplish.  As it stands, Mulholland is  structurally coherent while being a mostly empty portrait of Lynch’s mind-trip version of Hollywood.  I don’t doubt the power of his style, merely the ability to deliver content within said filmmaking.  I’m also twigged to the Robert Bresson school of declamation that Lynch makes actors work with.  Still better than Limits of Control, if you want a bad example of style excess.

My Favorite Brunette (1947 Elliott Nugent).  The closest thing I had to standard entertainment this weekend, I can’t help myself from kind-of liking Bob Hope’s send-up of noir stylists like Hammet and Chandler.  Sure, the jokes are still lame, but Peter Lorre’s deadpan delivery put me over the top.

Dishonorable Mentions

A strong selection this week leaves me without anyone else to chide.  If I had been feeling snarky, I might have dropped Mulholland Dr. to this position.

Written by Bill

October 14, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Posted in Movies

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