Gun Crazy is obviously his foremost masterwork—Dave Kehr eloquently called it "One of the most distinguished works of art to emerge from the B movie swamp"—but his filmography features many exuberant and highly personal films. You can catch my five favorite after the jump.
I thought about this while watching a new movie called The Iceman, which opens commercially tomorrow. In it people utter the word "porn" during two scenes, one set in the mid-60s and the other in mid-70s; at both points it sticks out like a sore thumb. In the first instance it's spoken by Ray Liotta, who plays the New Jersey mobster who hires Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) as his hit man. When they first meet, Kuklinski copies hard-core movies for a living, leading Liotta to sneer, "How long you been dubbing porn?" I suppose it's not implausible that in 1964 the sleazeballs who profited off stag reels were so familiar with their product that they'd employ this blase term. But where would they pick it up? Wouldn't they be used to saying "stag reels" or "blue movies" (or some other such euphemism) like everyone else?
Like all of Curtis's work, it would be imprecise to call The Attic a documentary—or even a political film. The characteristically dense collage draws from vintage newsreels and fiction films as well as contemporary interviews and TV footage. Curtis's realm isn't political reality but rather the signs among us (to borrow a chapter title from Jean-Luc Godard's Histoire(s) du cinéma, which Curtis's movies often resemble). And so The Attic isn't a critique of Thatcher, per se, but a consideration of the myth she created around herself.
I came across this passage last week while preparing a blog post about Yasujiro Ozu; it made me recall my own impressions of going to the movies in Japan. I attended both a multiplex and a cinematheque when I visited Kyoto in 2006, and I found in each the respectful sort of environment Richie describes. I didn't hear anyone so much as move his feet—whenever someone sneezed or coughed, he quickly muffled the sound, as he might in a symphonic hall. The air of propriety was so thick I could sense it even before the show began. Not only did theaters advertise when the movies started, they listed the precise minute at which they began seating. (It was never a round number, as I recall, but something like 5:07 or 9:01.) Spectators would line up single file in front of the screening room, getting themselves properly becalmed for the occasion.
Speaking of Indian cinema, Doc Films will screen the epic documentary Jai Bhim Comrade on Tuesday at 5:30 PM. The film, made over a 14-year period, concerns the history of India's Dalits, formerly known as untouchables, focusing on atrocities committed against this caste as well as efforts by artists and activists to raise national awareness of the Dalits' experience. Relatively few Indian movies screen around here at all, and few of those acknowledge the plight of this caste. Regardless of its quality as filmmaking, Jai Bhim Comrade will surely be eye-opening for most local spectators. A trailer follows the jump.
Check out this week's section for new capsule reviews of Aqui y Alla, in which a man returns from the U.S. to his home in Mexico to find himself a misfit in his own family; Dark Waters, the 1944 debut feature of cult director Andre de Toth; In the House, an academic satire by French director Francois Ozon (Under the Sand, 8 Women, Potiche); and Love Is All You Need, a Danish rom-com from director Susanne Bier and screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen (Open Hearts, Brothers, After the Wedding, In a Better World).
If you watch international art cinema on a regular basis, you've likely seen plenty of shots like this in recent years. The subjects tend to be impoverished, living in undeveloped areas, and employed in some kind of menial labor. The visual style is purposely uncomplicated, marked by minimal cutting and exacting compositions, as if to reflect the characters' uncomplicated lifestyle. If you're unfamiliar with this mode of filmmaking, you can see it in Aqui y Allà (Here and There), a Mexican film about farm laborers that opens this weekend at Facets Multimedia, and in Sharqiya, an Israeli film about impoverished bedouins screening at Block Cinema a week from Friday. Surely I'm not the only person who finds it odd that movies from Turkey, Mexico, and Israel should look so similar?