Wednesday, May 09, 2012

April Film Highlights

Though must readth the 50 Word Film Reviews blog.

Akira (1988) Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama, Taro Ishida, Mizuho Suzuki. Dir: Katsuhiro Otomo.
After an inexplicable accident, a biker in future Tokyo is taken by the military for experimenatation. Few films work so hard to blow your mind – if the cosmic existentialism doesn’t do it, the explosive sound and intense visceral action will. So relentless it’s hard to endure, Akira is truly unforgettable.
Day of Wrath (1943) Thorkild Roose, Lisbeth Movin, Sigrid Neiiendam, Preben Lerdorff Rye, Albert Hoeberg. Dir: Carl Theodor Dreyer.

A woman falls for her elderly husband’s son while starting to suspect she maybe a witch. Atmospheric, complex movie, which suggests the notion of witchcraft comes from sexual repression and men’s fear of desire. Gently paced, broodingly intense, and shot with a simple, subtle elegance, this is masterful individual filmmaking.
The Omega Man (1971) Charlton Heston, Anthony Zerbe, Paul Koslo, Rosalind Cash, Eric Laneuville. Dir: Boris Sagal.
After a plague wipes out humanity, one healthy man remains, persecuted by a cult of diseased fanatics. A lone man hunted scenario ought to create a feeling of discomfort and suspense, but the emotional content is undermined by gung-ho direction and exciteable scoring. It’s action packed, but that’s counterproductive to the concept.
Vampyr (1932) Julian West, Maurice Schutz, Rena Mandel, Jan Hieronimko, Sybille Schmitz, Rena Mandel. Dir: Carl Theodor Dreyer.
A wanderer meets a man who predicts his own death and whose daughter is a vampire’s victim. Brilliant ghostly fantasy, soaked in startling gothic imagery. Dreyer develops an unsettling dream like atmosphere rather than a coherent narrative – just turn out the lights and experience a nightmare unlike any other.
Son of Kong (1933) Robert Armstrong, Helen Mack, Frank Reicher, John Marston, Victor Wong. Dir: Ernest B. Schoedsack.
Denham and crew sail away from prosecution, but return to Kong’s island to seek treasure. In cinemas 9 months after Kong and it shows. The humans weren’t that interesting before, and aren’t interesting enough to carry this for the long trip back. And who wants a cuddly Kong? Forgettable nonsense.
Headhunters (2011) Aksel Hennie, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Synnøve Macody Lund, Julie Ølgaard, Eivind Sander. Dir: Morten Tyldum.
An executive recruiter and art thief accidentally picks a very dangerous target. Gripping non-gloomy Scandinavian thriller that mixes suspense with black humour and takes a satisfying swipe at the amoral corporate class. Ingenious set-pieces excite, although a tendency to be too gruesome jars, and the ending breaches credulity. Very satisfying.
Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Bradford Dillman, Natalie Trundy, Eric Braeden, Sal Mineo, Ricardo Montalbán. Dir: Don Taylor.
The ape scientists escape their world’s destruction and travel back to 20th century earth. The Apes films were always humorous, but here it over-indulges, detracting from its dark themes – two societies facing their failings, unable to prevent their destruction. Reduced budget prevents thrills, though the ending’s as devastating as ever.
Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948) Joan Fontaine, Louis Jourdan, Mady Christians, Marcel Journet. Dir: Max Ophüls.
A rogue receives a letter from a woman he barely remembers, but whose life he transformed. Hankies on standby; this weepie keeps its melodrama in check with elegant brush-strokes and by not sugar-coating the cruel tragedy at its centre – a life spent chasing a false fantasy. Hollywood at its best.