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J-E. M. Heydecker. All contents strictly reserved.
 

 

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Movies

bullet Montenegro
bullet Swept Away
bullet Taxi Driver
bullet Leaving Las Vegas
bullet Basketball Diaries
bullet Raise The Red Lantern
bullet Kurosawa's Dreams
bullet Rocky Horror Picture Show
bullet Other Highly Recommended Films To Check Out
Welcome to my online movie reviews. I am a big fan of foreign films, as well as the more quirky American independent films. I think Quentin's first few films were great as well as Spike's. I have listed a number of the best (as far as I am concerned) that I highly recommend you buy and keep in your own personal stash.

I am opening up reviews to anyone who finds anything very cool, the "must haves". Email me your review and I'll post them! Thanks.

Here are my top suggestions:

Montenegro

Swedish/English

A funny, raunchy film by Dusan Makavejev--a paean to the liberating power of dirt, as in both grime and smut. The setting is squeaky-clean Sweden, where an American woman (Susan Anspach) is married to a stuffy businessman (Erland Josephson) falls in with a colony of Yugoslavian immigrants. It's a one-joke movie, without the depth or formal inventiveness of Makavejev's WR: Mysteries of the Organism, but the joke is good and well sustained (1981).

I really love this film. It's one of my all-time Top Ten Favorites.

Swept Away

Italian/English subtitles

The superficial story is entertaining enough, but the deeper studies of human behavior make this (and most of Wertmuller's films) worthy of repeated and in-depth study. The knock-down, drag-out fight in the middle of the movie (which, conveniently enough, is the big turning point) is so completely self-consciously hilarious that I was rolling in the aisles in fits of laughter. As the two soon-to-be lovers grapple with each other along the length and breadth of the island they are spewing out an incredibly sensitive combination of heartfelt emotion and mindless class rhetoric.

Giancarlo Giannini is a fantastic actor possessed of one of cinema's all-time most expressive faces. Wertmuller knows how to exploit his talents to their fullest. Another Top Ten Fave.

Taxi Driver

If you're an insomniac ex-marine with chronic headaches, what would you do for a living? Why, drive a taxi, of course. Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro) spends 12 hours a day, 6-7 days a week driving a cab through the seediest neighborhoods of New York. Something about Travis seems edgy, a little left of center, but his actions don't reveal this initially. He falls for a beautiful woman, Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), who works for Senator Palantine's (Leonard Harris) presidential campaign. After lurking around her office, Travis summons the nerve to ask her to coffee; she accepts. He then asks her to a movie; who would've thought his choice would be a XXX rated flick? She summarily dumps him. Here is where Travis begins his downward slide, becoming the delusional, social misfit that we suspect him to be. Every scene provides more fodder for his impending breakdown. His confession to a fellow cabbie of his desire to do something really bad is a definite indicator. And his purchase of 5 bazillion handguns from a 'travelling salesman' solidifies the diagnosis. He finally does 'lose it', but not as you'd imagine, hence the interesting twist. Jodie Foster appears much later in the film as Iris, the child prostitute that Travis so desperately wants to rescue.

Even by today's standards, Taxi Driver has it's share of language, explicit content, and violence, especially the last scene where the director makes sure to linger over the details, both visually and audibly. DeNiro is known for really getting into the parts he plays. This is no exception; his performance is stellar. What really frightens me about this movie is that I've known this type of guy. Everyone has worked with someone like this, and you never know what's gonna make them snap. Hard, edgy...this movie is the balls.

Leaving Las Vegas

Ben Sanderson (Nicolas Cage) was a successful writer in Hollywood with a wife, a son, a lucrative job, and plenty of money. Unfortunately, you never get the chance to see this side of him in Leaving Las Vegas. In the first scene, Ben enters the trendy restaurant where his colleagues are having dinner. He's blitzed, but everyone seems to be able to 'ignore' his behavior in a controlled but "embarrassed-for-you" way. Ben finally pulls his friend Peter (Richard Lewis) away from the table to beg him for one more loan, which he promises to repay the next day- one of the most uncomfortable scenes I've ever seen in a film. It's painful to witness the unravelling of someone's life, but that's what this film is all about. Once Ben loses his job as a writer, his goal is to move to Las Vegas and drink himself to death (although this isn't revealed right away). He has nothing to lose because he's already lost it all- job, wife, child, and dignity. Once in Vegas, he (almost) runs into Sera (Elisabeth Shue) with his car. She's a hooker, but that doesn't matter to Ben. They discover their need for one another and begin a relationship based on acceptance of each other "as is". Their relationship is fascinating, and there are a few funny moments as they take their short but poignant journey together.

This movie is not for everybody but it's one of the best, most honest films I have ever seen. It's raw, brutal, wrenching, and offers no apologies or easy way out. There's nothing gratuitous here - a welcome change of pace. The sex is real. The drinking and its consequences are real. And the relationship between Ben and Sera is pure - not in a chaste sense, but in an honest sense. In these days of "intervention" - where everyone feels it's their duty to set straight the errant neighbor, friend, or relative - it's refreshing to see two people agree to accept each other just as they are. Not that this isn't a tough road; Sera fights to keep from saving Ben from himself, and Ben falls prey to jealousy when Sera's turning tricks. But in the end, she's with him and he's with her. I found this movie disturbing and very painful to watch, but it features a thoughtful ending to a well-done movie. Not your typical effluence from H-wood.

Basketball Diaries

Leonardo DiCaprio stars in this tawdry tale based on the autobiography of hipster Jim Carroll that follows his descent from promising high school basketball player to male-hustling junkie. The gay subplots are tinged with homophobia including Bruno Kirby's role as the teen's sweaty-palmed, closeted basketball coach and a truly despicable tea room sex scene that offers mid-America the images to confirm their notion that homosexuality is horrific! 

I had met Jim Carroll a number of times when he came to Boston in the very early 80's. He used to hang around a club called Spit on Lansdowne Street and I went to hear him read his poetry whenever I was in NYC. There was this great piece he did about a hump-backed chick he picked up at a club, and when he got to her place, he shot up, and a scene ensued. It was the most amazing reading I had ever heard. The movie is okay, but I am SUCH a big fan of the writer. 

Raise The Red Lantern

Chinese/English subtitles

Gong Li is sent to feudal nobleman's palatial home to become his newest wife. The relationships between her and her predecessors--all of whom live on the premises--and the interaction among the women, the servants, and their master are brilliantly played out. An extraordinary view of sex, loyalty, intrigue, and female bonding. Deliberately paced, but worth watching for the changes in emotion that register on actress Gong Li's face alone. Screenplay by Ni Zhen, from a novel by Su Tong.

Kurosawa's Dreams

Japanese/English subtitles

The winter of Kurosawa's life created this movie of eight dreams. These dreams transport us through many emotions by portraying tragedy, love, aloneness and beauty and end with a dream that appears to portray Kurosawa's vision of heaven. It is an extremely beautiful and well crafted film that invites revisiting from time to time because the themes it contains are universal and timeless to the viewer; a sure keeper in my video collection. It is a true work of art.

Rocky Horror Picture Show

Untamed, kinky, bizzare, sexy...With it's warped storyline and humor, it offers a viewing experience unlike no other. Which is what makes it such a hard movie to review. Depending on what kind of person you are, you will get something out of this movie that maybe your best friend didn't. (And who said your friends were a reflection of yourself?) Anyway, the story revolves around a married couple and the one night their car happens to break down near an old mansion. They, of course, go into the mansion to try and use their phone, but a lot more than that unfolds... With its themes of sexual liberation and Rock n' Roll, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is an unforgettable (but not perfect) viewing experience. 

If you've never managed to experience this movie at an art house, you've missed a significant part of its charm. Live actors and viewers alike dressed as the actors in the movie. The actors ended up on stage in front of the movie acting it out live, while viewers brought toast and water guns and raincoats to interact with the movie, the actors, et al... If there's ever a revival near you, by all means, baby...camp out for tickets.

Other Highly Recommended Films To Check Out:

bulletThree Women
bulletThe Incredible Lightness of Being
bulletPulp Fiction
bulletThe 'Burbs
bulletMonty Python and the Holy Grail