Monday, January 20, 2014

GUEST POST: Marco A. S. Freitas' Favorite Older Film Discoveries Of 2013

A film buff from a very early age, Marco A. S. Freitas has studied University-level Advertising in Brazil, has a B.A. in film from Columbia College-Hollywood and the completed UCLA screenwriting Program. Some of the film memories he´s got ingrained in his brain include Sammo Hung proving one can be overweight yet still flexible, Gene Kelly dancing alongside a mouse known as ´Jerry´, Franco Nero as a coffin-carrying gunslinger and a jaw-droppingly gorgeous Marisa Mell naked, cavorting under under millions of dollars with John Phillip Law. He has collaborated with digital Film magazines from Belgium, Italy, France, Portugal, the UK, the US, etc

Some of his musings on Cinema has recently been published in CEMITÉRIO PERDIDO DOS FILMES B: EXPLOITATION (  ) ,  a pioneering Brazilian book on some of the world´s best forgotten films.

A father gives a one-way ticket to hell to his wife and her boy toy and the cuckolded fella´s child, Marialé, sees it all...years later, she is basically being held captive by her oppresive aristocratic hubby and his watchdog of a butler, in a huge mansion. Well, let´s just say everyone reaches a breaking point, proving a person´s trauma´may stay years dormant, only waiting for a twisted mind, to wake it all up. The sluggish pace may be a burden sometimes, but this gothic giallo is well acted by Ida Galli AKA Evelyn Stewart, Luigi Pistilli-resembling like a mix between Jess Franco´s regular Howard Vernon AKA Mario Lippert with US Character Actor Robert Miano-and genre stalwart Ivan Rassimov. The feast sponsored by the protagonist packs a wallop somewhat akin to the ones perpetrated in Pasolini´s SALÓ (1975) and Ferreri´s LE GRANDE BOUFFE (1973). Unforgettable score by Bruno Nicolai and Fiorenzo Carpi; directed and photographed by the stylish Romano Scavolini, whose NIGHTMARE IN A DAMAGED BRAIN aka NIGHTMARE (1981) was banned in the UK in the 80s.

Skillfully written and directed by former teen idol John Stockwell (he was in two Tom Cruise´s movies´, LOSING IT (1983) and TOP GUN (1986); costarred with another future director-Keith Gordon-in the underestimated CHRISTINE (1983), and first went behind the scenes under the tutelage of Cannon´s Menahem Golan & Yoram Globus-and Albert Pyun- and appears briefly here), this could be dismissed as a ´cable-made, teenaged cousin to QUIZ SHOW (1994), but to my money, it is superior, or as just another title in the very tired´teacher-makes-a-difference-in-student´s life sweepstakes´, but it is NOT. Jeff Daniels (when will the Academy give a nom to this thespian? The guy has been giving solid performance after solid perf for 30 plus years now!) and Jenna Malone head a brilliant cast in this very subversive ´cinematic criticism´ on the state of Education in the US. You will be rooting for the kids even when they get behind a scholastic cheating scam. Inspired by real events, the real Mr. Plicky-the high school instructor that is played by Daniels, makes a cameo here.

Kinkfest that owns a lot to the Italian genre of Giallo Movies, it stars one of the most smoldering hot women ever to grace the screen-big or small-or a stage ever, gorgeous-and a fine actress in her own right!-, Debbie Harry, as a sensual (am I repeating myself here?) foul-mouthed phone sex operator (I guess it comes with the job) who becomes the target of a perverted maniac. A cop (James Russo, an actor that despite his short height and small build can really look like he could kick anybody´s behind after sputtering anything with East Coast accent and a stare) goes rogue to help her out. Lush Cinematography by Israeli cinematographer Ilan Rosenberg (reminiscent of Jordan Cronnenweth´s work in BLADE RUNNER (1982), but done with a what that movie had to spend in catering), and assured directing by Corman alumn, Allan Holzman. Harry, the Punk/Post-Punk/New Wave/Disco/Pop Diva, even sings a desolate version of the classic ´Piece Of My Heart´. With a supporting cast made in heaven:  Grace Zabriskie, Tim Thomerson and a sans-body double Tia Carrere. Neal Israel, helmer of BACHELOR PARTY (1984), and Musician Billy Vera, have small roles.

Another picture by the Polish-born filmmaker (called by many simplistic reviewers, ´French Cinema´s Top Enfant Terribles´), that emerges with exasperation and characters sometimes unable to communicate with each other on the same level. Deranged and violent, yet never lacking in compassion, this largely-forgotten movie (outside Europe, that is, for it was a huge financial success in France), stars Italian beefcake-and accomplished thespian-Fabio Testi as a brooding photographer bent on helping a c-grade film actress (the talented, sad-eyed Romy Schneider, playing a woman incapable of saying ´I love you´ and in a parallel universe, her role could have been played in a George Cukor movie by a still beautiful, yet already presenting the ravages of alcoholism, Judy Garland) crossover to ´respectable status´ through the financing of a Shakespearean play on which she will have a part (acting opposite W. Herzog´s fave/worst friend, Klaus Kinski, playing a stage star). As in some of the director´s other movies (POSSESSION, LA FEMME PUBLIQUE, etc), the oppressive power love can exert over people may result in tragedy. Singer Jacques Dutronc plays Romy´s smarmy husband.

A former associate/working partner of  iconoclastic icons Bert Schneider, Jack Nicholson, Dean Stockwell, Orson Welles and Dennis Hopper, true independent Henry Jaglom may unnerve you with his matter-of-fact approach to life´s idyosincrasies and its protagonists, but they will hardly ever leave you cold. His attraction to the odd (ness) in modern day relationships can be moving and his glimpses in the pathetic side to people, rewarding (even if you end up seeing yourself on the screen and contacting a shrink afterwards like I did) even when self-indulgence rears its head. a valentine to the dreamers who continue to shamelessly pursue their big break in tinsel town, people with stars in their eyes but not necessarily talent or the thick skin to make it through it as well as the bystanders who hoover in their vicinity. In this sequel to the his cute 2006 HOLLYWOOD DREAMS, Tana Frederick returns, suggesting her character may have developed steel balls since her first auditions. And not even a mere ankle bracelet (´acquired´ via some DUIs ´misdeamenors´) will stand in her path to her place in the sun! Zack Norman, Chris Rydell and David Proval are excellent as usual.