Monday, May 02, 2011

April Film Highlights

As featured on the 50 Word Film Reviews blog

Howl (2010) James Franco, John Hamm, David Strathairn, Bob Balaban. Dir: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman.

Allen Ginsbourg explains and performs his poem Howl, which leads to an obscenity trial for its publisher. Including the trial was a mistake; it provides a disruptive narrative push to a film about insight and analysis. It screams out for its own full-feature. Interesting nevertheless and Franco does very well.


Rubber (2010) Stephen Spinella, Roxanne Mesquida, Jack Plotnick, Wings Hauser. Dir: Quentin Dupieux.

A car tire comes to life and goes on a killing spree. Sounds like laugh-a-minute exploitation, but more avant-garde. Has a quirky idea in which the lead actor tries to kill the audience so he won’t have to finish the film. Would be funny if it wasn’t so boring.


Martin (1977) John Amplas, Lincoln Maazel, Christine Forrest, Elyane Nadeau, Tom Savini. Dir: George A. Romero.

Martin thinks he’s a vampire, so he preys on women with sedatives and a razor blade. Refreshingly unsentimental interpretation of the vampire myth, showing Martin as little more than a rapist. Romero makes Martin a pathetic figure to be pitied, rather than romanticised. The perfect cure for Twilight nausea.


Oranges & Lemons (2011) Emily Watson, Hugo Weaving, David Wenham, Richard Dillane. Dir: Jim Loach.

A social worker tries to reunite orphans forcibly migrated from the UK to Australia in 50s – 70s. A true and very moving story, told in a way that avoids melodrama, relying on a more believably human, and arguably English, response to traumatic events. Understated and the better for it.


Manos: The Hands of Fate(1966) Hal Warren, Tom Neyman, John Reynolds, Diane Mahree. Dir: Hal P. Warren.

A lost family insist upon staying the night with a jittery satyr who serves a demonic master. A movie made by a fertiliser salesman; someone who makes Ed Wood seem like an auteur. Uneventful, incompetent and downright puzzling, it’s like a badly filmed dream - surreal and utterly stupid.


Mephisto (1981) Klaus Maria Brandauer, Krystyna Janda, Ildikó Bánsági, Rolf Hoppe. Dir: István Szabó.

An actor is reluctant to leave 30s Berlin as his career is peaking, especially when he finds favour with the Nazi government. An engrossing character drama about a weak and naive man without moral courage. We can understand his behaviour, even if we can’t forgive it. Great script, great central performance.


The Kid (1921) Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Coogan, Edna Purviance, Tom Wilson. Dir: Charlie Chaplin.

A tramp finds and raises an orphan, but later the authorities take him away. Sited as the first tragedy and comedy blend. Undeniably moving, with rundown sets and contemporary social commentary that add real substance. There’s even a surreal dream sequence. A unique film – and Coogan is amazing.


The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr Toad (1949) Basil Rathbone, Bing Crosby. Don Bluth, Colin Campbell. Dir: Jack Kinney, Clyde Geronimi, James Algar.

Disney’s telling of the Wind of the Willows and Sleepy Hollow. Lesser known Disney, and for good reason. Wind in the Willows is jolly but zips through the plot, and seems like a missed opportunity. Sleepy Hollow is pretty dull; only the finale impresses, and the ambiguous end is odd.