Wednesday, January 15, 2014

GUEST POST: Todd Cauley's Favorite Older Film Discoveries Of 2013

Todd Cauley writes for The Gentlemen's Guide To Midnight Cinema Blog at

5. THE NOAH (1975) Director: Daniel Borla
A strong performance from Daniel Strauss (whom you may remember as “Animal” in Billy Wilder’s STALAG 17) anchors this film about a solitary man trying to assuage the guilt over his complicity in a nuclear war.  The overlapping dialogue works wonderfully, and the imperfection inherent in Noah’s imaginary world only drives home the fact that these problems are ingrained in man from birth and are, therefore, inescapable.  Strauss and company also do an outstanding job creating complete characters almost entirely from dialogue alone, a sort of callback to the golden age of radio (at least to my mind)however, .  Yet the film’s pacing never flags, and Borla maintains visual interest right up to the final frames.  I did feel that the finale was a tad heavy-handed, but not enough to diminish the overall experience.  

4. DARK HABITS (1983) Director: Pedro Almodóvar
I admit I like Almodóvar’s films in general.  This one stands out for me, however, because it manages to balance perversity, humor, and creepiness, while being absolutely engaging simultaneously.  The director’s skill behind the camera easily overcomes the film’s budget with a stunning low-fi aesthetic.  What’s funny is, for how uniformly odd the characters all are (as if they were assigned to this convent in order to keep them all in one place), they are also strikingly human and relatable.  At first glance, the film could be taken simply as a cartoonish comedy, but I think it’s much more than that.  

Director: Hubert Cornfield
This kidnapping film is a slow burn, but everything from the color schemes to the music portend bad shit coming down the pike.  There are shots that are out of focus, but this is one of those instances where these errors don’t work against the film.  Quite the opposite, they accentuate the verisimilitude and the impending violence foretold from the film’s opening. Boone and Brando play marvelously off each other, but Rita Moreno also gives a stellar performance as a drug-addled conspirator (all the more shocking if you first came to know her from the series The Electric Company (1971-77), as I did).  As crime films go, this one deserves a wider audience, in my opinion.  Seek it out.  

2. ZARDOZ (1973)  Director: John Boorman
One of the things I really enjoyed about this one (aside from its subtexts) is the loving reference Boorman makes to 1903’s THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY with Connery’s Zed firing a gun in Direct Address to the audience.  Unlike that earlier film, though, we’re being told about the artifice of the film we’re about to watch rather than reminding us of the experience we have just undertaken by this shot’s placement at the film’s beginning.  This film is more concerned with its concepts than with its story, so there are incongruities in the characters’ actions from time to time, but the visuals are so striking (including, but not limited to, riding around in what I like to call “Bionic Bigfoot’s Head”) that it makes these inconsistencies as well as much of what could easily be very heavy-handed commentary go down much easier.  It entertains while it stimulates ideas.  It’s good filmmaking. 

1. ALUCARDA (1977)  Director: Juan López Moctezuma
I think the best way to describe this film (and this is likely doing it and its creators a huge disservice) is as a Jodorowsky horror film not directed by Jodorowsky.  It is stunning in both its mise-en-scène and its metaphors.  It is as batshit crazy and steeped in chaos as it pensive and measured in its design.  In some ways, it could conceivably be called a perfect horror movie, since it manages to satisfy so fully on both visceral and cerebral levels.  For the longest time, I had been put off by the derivative-sounding title and the poster art that didn’t particularly captivate me.  Well, I’m here to do you a favor if you were at all like me in these thoughts.  See this film.  Today, if possible.