Friday, 30 March 2012

Ileán Almaguer & co in "El Quinto Mandamiento" [2012 Mexico]

Rafael Lara's latest drama "El Quinto Mandamiento" [Eng. Title: The Fifth Commandment] is a psychological thriller of the oh-haven't-I-seen-this-before variety, but I guess most mainstream films are these days, and this one is as mainstream as a Mexican Taco. At least it doesn't pretend to be anything else, and you get exactly what's written in the packet.

Storyline - Víctor, psychopath, loves carving crosses onto women post-mortem, blames paedophile priest and mother-in-denial for his behaviour, falls in love with one of his intended victims and decides to give up his adopted lifestyle. Alcoholic detective (he's mourning his sister's passing), eventually tracks down Víctor, and manages to break his habit with the bottle. Of course, you do have the obligatory gore with shaky camera and sharp edits thrown in to make things look this century, and moments of reflection explaining the reason for Víctor's actions.

Compilation: Jimena Guerra, Jimena Luna and Ileán Almaguer
There are unpleasant scenes here for some very obvious reasons, so use your discretion.

Jimena Guerra, Jimena Luna and Ileán Almaguer in El Quinto Mandamiento

Scene Guide:
  • Victim no. 1 - had to endure looking at her portrait that Víctor had painstakingly drawn. Played by Jimena Guerra.
  • Victim no: 2 - ends up in the morgue surrounded by puzzled detectives after rejecting one of Víctor's less macabre artworks. played by Jimena Luna.
  • Intended victim Gabriela actually takes Víctor's fancy and he fantasises about her. Played by sweet-looking Ileán Almaguer.
  • In reality though, Víctor's dating technique leaves a lot to be desired. But even all tied up, Gabriela pulls the courage to tell him that he could actually do with some professional help. And he feels insulted.


Thursday, 29 March 2012

Marina Anna Eich & co in "Mein Traum oder Die Einsamkeit ist Nie Allein" [2008 Germany]

With an intriguing title for Roland Reber's 2008 film, "Mein Traum oder Die Einsamkeit ist Nie Allein" [Eng. Trans: My Dream or Loneliness never walks Alone], one would've expected to be taken on some kind of existential ride exploring human nature on the lines of Antonioni's 'L'Avventura". Well, I was any way. But what we see is an experimental exercise in mixing various motifs by bringing the stage to the screen.

I assume Mr. Reber was trying to reach out to a younger 'mainstream' audience with his cut-and-dry theories. In his customary style, he uses a detached character to comment on the protagonist's state of mind. Here it is the androgynous Godot - a scavenger making a living off the city's sewer system, who unravels the protagonist's confused state of mind and in some ways acts as his guardian angel.

A man leaves his wife, family and friends and walks off with his suitcase not knowing what he wants to do next. He bumps into some characters who'll reappear again during his night of wanderlust in company of the affable Godot (played by Mira Gittner). He will relive conversations with his parents, wife (Marina Anna Eich), and mistress (Sabrina Brencher) among others as he reassesses his life. Knowing that the man is contemplating suicide, Godot will try and explain why people do and say the things they do.

The story apparently was inspired by a real event concerning an old man who threw himself off a bridge, suitcase in hand, onto the carriageway below. It is an unusual addition to Roland Reber's filmography, as I believe this is primarily stage play material, may be even a musical. While I have no problems at all with what Reber is trying to say, I'm not sure to what extent people today might relate to the 'traditional' characters portrayed here. But it is witty in places, and we get to see a different kind of character played by Ms. Eich. As usual, you have cast members doubling up as crew - Mira Gittner handling cinematography and editing, with Marina Anna Eich and Patricia Koch in charge of production.

Official site and Trailer
Amazon DVD Link

pdf-50 Dialogue Sheet in English

Sabrina Brencher, Marina Anna Eich, Patricia Koch, and Martina Schölzhorn
The film contains only brief scenes of nudity which is largely used for comical effect. This post also coincides with the German theatrical release of WTP International's latest film, "Die Wahrheit der Lüge" aka "The Truth of Lie".

Sabrina Brencher, Marina Anna Eich, Patricia Koch, and Martina Schölzhorn in Mein Traum oder Die Einsamkeit ist Nie Allein

Scene Guide:
  • Our protagonist summing up what his mistress means to him - love, faith, hope, and farewell. The mistress is played by Sabrina Brencher.
  • We now get to hear how the mistress sees her relationship with him...
  • A bizarre scene where the wife tries to open up to hubby's best friend, but who on the other hand seems more keen to perfect his tasteless jokes. The wife is played by probably the fairest among Bavarians, Marina Anna Eich.
  • Some additional snippets from the film where we see Reber appearing as himself and cuddling up to a couple of 'bunnies' - Martina Schölzhorn on the right, and the stunning but 'visibly' underused Patricia Koch. I wish we get to see her fill the screen for a little while longer..!
  • Well she does, if only briefly - with fellow bunny Martina when the TV presenter gets ready for the next take.


Sunday, 25 March 2012

María León in "La Voz Dormida" [2011 Spain]

Having enjoyed watching his previous two feature films, I'm surprised Benito Zambrano hasn't made many more. There's great deal of attention paid to composition and lighting in his films and he certainly wants his audience to remember the scenes long after leaving their seat. Just in his latest prison drama, "La Voz Dormida" [Eng. Title: The Sleeping Voice] - some of the scenes are truly memorable. But my favourite however remains his debut feature "Solas", for its exquisite screenplay and direction, not to mention the strong performances all around - do not miss it if you get an opportunity.

This film too has some exceptional performances from its main cast, particularly from the talented and beautiful newcomer María León who deservedly won a Goya for the best new actress of the year. The film won further awards for original score and supporting actress. Needless to say, Recommended Viewing..! DVD Link

Set during the aftermath of the Spanish civil war when Francisco Franco's regime systematically purged remnants of the erstwhile left-wing republicans by imprisoning and executing people connected with communists, we follow the fate of Hortensia, the imprisoned and pregnant wife of a communist commander (ably played by Inma Cuesta). Her younger sister Pepita arrives in Madrid to seek help in whatever way she can to get her released, but inevitably gets involved with the communists when she couriers messages between Hortensia and her husband in hiding. Hortensia's fate is nevertheless sealed and hers will be one of several executions of men and women held after mock trials during the turbulent period. Pepita's only solace will be a reminder of her sister in the form of Hortensia's newborn baby.

Compilation: María León
In one particularly nasty scene, Pepita is tortured by authorities while asked to identify a commander from a group of men captured along with her brother-in-law. She is left naked in a cell until the father of her employer, a close associate of Franco gets her released after making sure she didn't implicate his son, a former doctor and left-wing sympathiser in any way. María León gives a heart-felt and convincing performance as Pepita.

María León in La voz dormida


Friday, 23 March 2012

Scenes from "Napoletans" [2011, Italy]

OK this is one of those entries that occasionally need to make their appearance here...

First-time director Luigi Russo's comedy, "Napoletans" [Eng. Trans: Neapolitans] is a typical Christmas pudding, something that would never form part your staple, but just okay once in a while. It has those familiar ingredients that apart from inducing nostalgia, makes you think of seriously hitting the gym come new year. Nothing may be new here story or comedy-wise - it's just an excuse to forget about the financial crisis for an hour and a half. I'm not going to bother with the storyline here, all I'll add is that part of the film's plot is straight out of "L’Infermiera di Notte". Now, let's move on shall we...

Amazon DVD Link

Compilation: Francesca Ceci, Susi del Giudice, Margherita di Rauso, and Nina Senicar
There's only brief nudity in the film, so I've included other typical goofy-sexy moments to spice up the compilation, entertaining nevertheless...

Francesca Ceci, Susi del Giudice, Margherita di Rauso, and Nina Senicar in Napoletans

Scene Guide:
  • Kids spying on their school teacher Tani, who also seems to be the object of the head teacher's affections. Sig.ra Tani is played by Francesca Ceci.
  • Gennaro the dentist taking time off work to play one of his customary kinky games with mistress, played by Susi del Giudice. Here he's the traffic policeman stopping a hapless motorist..! :-)
  • The head teacher at a function gets a bit carried away dancing with Sig.ra Tani.
  • 'Aphrodisiac' gag coming up - Mrs. Gennaro mistakes hubby's secret stash for herbal tea and suddenly becomes a 'lioness'. Anna is played by Margherita di Rauso.
  • Angela is the night nurse employed to look after Gennaro's ailing guest. A silly dog makes her spill coffee on herself (pantyhose alert), and she's forced to take a shower. Little does she know that the youngest son had placed a camera in the bathroom just for such an occasion. Angela is played by Nina Senicar.
  • ...and Angela just happens to be dating the eldest son of the household.
  • It appears all male members of the family is lusting after Angela - this time Gennaro himself fantasises while watching her cycle ahead of him on the road.
  • Frustrated at Gennaro not making it to their regular rendezvous point, the angry mistress comes looking for him at the surgery, and finding just his assistant, asks him if he likes what he sees. Oh well - you get the idea...


Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Isabelle Adjani & co in "L'Été Meurtrier" [1983 France]

I'm not sufficiently acquainted with the work of Jean Becker to comment here yet, but of the ones I've seen, his relatively recent film "Dialogue avec mon Jardinier" remains my favourite. His 1983 film, "L'Été Meurtrier" [Eng. Title: One Deadly Summer] is a mystery drama, which becomes apparent only around the halfway mark. It draws on elements across diverse genres - comedy, family, erotica, exploitation, and revenge, to name a few. But what's outstanding on the part of Becker is the manner in which he put them all together without making the film look incoherent, thanks to a fine screenplay (interestingly using characters to narrate parts of their story in background), crisp editing, and some excellent performances by the lead actors.

Notably that of Isabelle Adjani, truly one of the most beautiful and talented actresses in cinema. Record holder of the most César Awards won by an actress, she's a quintessentially French icon forged from Algerian and German parentage - how exotic is that! And ironic too, considering the heated debate as ever on immigration in the current French Presidential campaign. Ms. Adjani won a César for this film too, her second of five to date, playing a disturbed nineteen year old looking for revenge. What she brings to the screen cannot be directed, it had to come from within. But fortuitous though it might be, it required a director of Becker's class to capture that performance in the best possible manner to help narrate his story. Which he does admirably. Needless to say, Recommended Viewing..! DVD Link
(Having purchased two other editions prior to the one above, I wouldn't recommend anything else.)

Set in the 1970's, Eliane is the local village belle somewhere in the south of France. She arrived with her parents when little, and with rumours about their history floating, the village-folk have always looked down upon her family. But that doesn't get in the way Eliane's determination to become the most desired woman around, and she succeeds easily. But beyond her winning looks, she has a burning urge to seek revenge on the people responsible for her mother's rape (and her resultant birth). She feels her very existence is based on a violent act and this is her way of coming to terms with it. After learning of a piano in the household of local mechanic and part-time fireman Florimondo aka 'Pin-Pon', she thinks she had discovered one of the perpetrators. She sets her cross-hair on Florimondo, his son, and wins him over in no time before moving into his family home, even getting married. But things take an unexpected turn, and ALL is not what they seemed at the beginning...

Compilation: Virginie Vignon, Isabelle Adjani, Maria Machado, and Evelyne Didi
Some of the scenes reviewed don't contain nudity, but they're amusing, sexy, and broadly in keeping with the blog's theme. Certainly interesting nevertheless..!

Virginie Vignon, Isabelle Adjani, Maria Machado, and Evelyne Didi in L'Été Meurtrier
Scene Guide:
  • Florimondo sometimes comes for a 'late show' at the local cinema with the owner's wife. The naughty woman is played by Virginie Vignon.
  • No nudity - village belle Eliane sure is one heck of a crowd head-turner, Florimondo merely being one among them. Eliane of course, is played by the incredibly talented and alluring (even if a tad skinny in this film) Isabelle Adjani.
  • Thanks to some help from his younger brother, Florimondo manages to tag along with Elaine for a drink at a travelling dance club, but her attitude and swagger keeps throwing him off - she's just too hot for him to handle and the frustrated chap excuses himself soon after.
  • After learning about the disused piano from his brother, Eliane becomes suddenly interested in Florimondo and asks him out on a date, also getting his suggestions on the best dress to wear.
  • After spending the night with Florimondo at the barn, she wakes up early to look for the piano. Still in the nude, she walks outside to catch his mother's eye glaring at her. Now is Eliane bothered - hardly..!
  • This is one of the few scenes that don't succeed in serving their purpose. The following morning, Eliane returns home depressed and seeks comfort in mother Paula's arms. This is supposed to be a tender moment of mother-daughter bonding when Eliane is suckled by her mother, but for me at least, it misfires grandly, given that Eliane doesn't exhibit this side of her nature anywhere else in the film. Far from it - she revels in her sexual prowess throughout.
  • Brothers tease Florimondo as he gets busy with Eliane.
  • No nudity but funny - Florimondo introduces Eliane to his family. His mother could barely conceal her contempt for her, and pointing at something Eliane was holding, asks what she'd already taken from the house. A defiant Eliane waves what she's been holding - her 'culotte' - apparently she doesn't wear them for longer than a day. Florimondo uses this moment to tell his mum that Eliane is moving in - oh, talk about timing..! :-)
  • Eliane assures Florimondo that she won't forget to wear her knickers in future.
  • But she needs to bathe now and there's not enough space in her room for her bathtub. Cue for another funny scene as Florimondo's mother and aunt have to now put up with Eliane's brash and naked presence in the kitchen.
  • The film takes a dark turn while recounting the brutal rape of Eliane's mother many years ago. The scene comes out of the blue when you least expect it - it is disturbing, and positively shocking. Eliane's mother Paula is played by Maria Machado.
  • Calamité is obviously besotted by Eliane, her erstwhile student. She'd do anything for a passionate kiss from her. Eliane knows that too well, and uses it to her advantage - her putty in her hands. At a restaurant, she challenges Calamité to remove her bra behind her transparent shirt, and she complies, claiming her reward in the car on their way back. Calamité is played by Evelyne Didi.
  • Eliane is about to get married after claiming she's pregnant, here she's trying out stuff with her seamstress mom.
  • Eliane visits a timber merchant at a nearby town believing him to be her 'father', and the man, not knowing who she is, instantly falls under her spell. He just can't take his eyes nor hands off her.
  • When Eliane nonchalantly admits that she might indeed not be pregnant, a furious Florimondo lashes at her, and family arrive to help.
  • He pleads her not to hide things from him. Eliane assures him it is he she loves, and that he needn't be too worried by her eccentric behaviour.


Friday, 16 March 2012

Iwona Petry in Andrzej Zulawski's "Szamanka" [1996 Poland]

Andrzej Zulawski raked up controversy (again) through one of his later works back in Poland, in the dark psycho-sexual drama "Szamanka" [Eng. Trans: Female-Shaman]. Sometimes you wonder what makes a director pick up disturbing material to work with, especially if he doesn't come across as a tormented soul - I mean, you don't expect him to be if he'd just fathered a child with someone like Sophie Marceau, his long-term partner. To call this film 'intense' is a bit of an understatement - it is a vigorously fetishistic treatment of a dark fantasy - of primeval mysticism, lust, and possessiveness.

Michal, a university anthropologist meets a mine-engineering student looking for a place to rent - he's subletting his brother's apartment - and they have casual sex within an hour of meeting. They already have partners, but this encounter would become an obsessive habit and upset the apple cart. Michal and his team have unearthed a perfectly preserved bronze age shaman, he is fascinated by it and spends a lot of time understanding the way the shaman met his end - apparently it was voluntary. Michal sees in his lover (she isn't given a name - people call her 'the Italian' because she worked in an Italian restaurant) traits of a female-shaman and develops a growing fascination with her, more specifically her sex - he implies on more than one occasion that she's nothing but sex on legs, yearning to be satiated, by him. He moves in to her apartment but one day realises she will be his death. By drawing parallels between Michal's twin-obsessions - his work and the girl, Zulawski is trying to define wilful self-destruction, the same way the mummified shaman must have met his end.

The film makes no apologies for its depiction of erotic scenes - in fact it revels in it. But at the same time, it technically manages to stay within the confines of mainstream acceptance. A lot of what's going on is implied, but enough to raise a few eyebrows. Several techniques from his earlier films like "Possession" and "Le Femme Publique" are also applied here, to varying degree of success. There is also this intense chemistry between the lead actors that is not often seen in his earlier films, they're completely comfortable in each other's presence, which helps deepen their characters' intimacy. This is another 'marmite-like' confrontational and unforgettable film from the Polish master of controversy. It is a disturbing yet incredibly intimate portrait of an obsessive and erotically charged relationship, and therefore, Recommended Viewing..!

However this DVD is hard to come by, and the ones available are letterboxed and not exactly cheap. But if like me you can't wait for a remastered anamorphic release, you may check one out here:
ebay DVD Link

Compilation: Iwona Petry and Agnieszka Wagner
Despite my efforts, at over 26 mins this must possibly the longest compilation I've made here so far. Several blog-related scenes have not been included and this is just a sampler of the almost 2-hour long film. Some of the sex scenes become tediously repetitive unless you like to see Ms Petry's overzealous depiction of orgasmic spasms. Some of the scenes need no descriptions as they're plainly visual.

Iwona Petry and Agnieszka Wagner in Szamanka

Scene Guide:
  • The first encounter - Michal points out to 'the girl' how wet she already is and decides to do something about it. The girl is played by the ravishing Polish beauty, Iwona Petry. They both admit later to be already engaged.
  • The girl with her boyfriend, who tries all kinds of ways to satisfy her. He fails again, and after they're disturbed by some nuns, she leaves him for good as he can no longer afford to subsidise her.
  • The rest of the scenes are fairly visual and require no further explanation.
  • Prepositioned by a man at the cafe, the girl flashes at him and walks off, not realising the poor fella is disabled.
  • Funny scene as she answers the door bottomless - she was shaving her nether regions so that Michal could look at her with equal fascination as the hairless mummy he's obsessed with - only to see it is an admirer from college who's come asking for a date. She tells him she has a boyfriend and that she's shaving her vagina as it was getting all prickly while having sex. The love-struck guy leaves broken-hearted.
  • This time she goes to his flat to make him happy because he had been in love with her (and to get back on Michal for allowing his brother's gay friend to have fun with her).
  • Michal's girlfriend Anna tries to win him back, and it almost works. Anna is played by the beautiful Agnieszka Wagner.


Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Scenes from Michelangelo Antonioni's "Blowup" [UK, USA, Italy 1966]

"Blowup" [also known as Blow-Up] was a turning point in the great Michelangelo Antonioni's career. After a string of critically acclaimed Italian classics, he was offered the opportunity to work with MGM on three English language films - "Blowup" being the first and the most successful, unfortunately for the wrong reasons, more of which in a moment. What marks this a turning point however is that after his return to Italian cinema after these, he will never be as prolific as he used to be before worldwide acclaim. His projects grew few and far between, even whilst his genius remained radiant as ever.

Adapted from a short story by Julio Cortázar, Antonioni developed the screenplay further to experiment with an array of philosophical themes. Prominent among which is the perception of reality. What is real, and when does it become 'accepted' as real. Is seeing believing, or isn't that enough, even with photographic evidence. Does everyone have to create their own reality. Another concept is his trying to define 'value' - the fact that things taken out of context loose their value and purpose (a bit like the compilations in my posts - oops, sorry couldn't resist that :-)) is demonstrated time and again. There's also his pet themes like urban alienation explored through a different angle using characters that conform mechanically to fit in an environment.

All these themes are woven into events during a day in the life of Thomas, a mod and fashion photographer in London during the swinging sixties. We don't know much about Thomas, he isn't particularly likeable even, but he grows on us as we get to see things from his point of view. We can see Antonioni is critiquing his protagonist but at the same time is fascinated by him, along with the glitz and glamour of his world. His world is one of attractive women throwing themselves at his feet, of drugs, parties, and rock and roll, which we get to sample intermittently through the film. And it is the documentation of these facets of Thomas' world that was the cause of much controversy - scenes like these, though tame by today's standards were not shown in film until then.

The very thought of this film being produced by MGM is incredible to say the least - they don't usually make this kind of stuff. And mainstream film or not, Antonioni nevertheless dishes out bitter-pill ideas, cunningly sugar-coating it with glamour and sex. The audience bought it too, and it apparently did well in both the US and UK. The film itself is exquisitely done. Antonioni narrates this like a stylish thriller, and gives his protagonist a purpose by allowing him to believe that he was an inadvertent witness to a murder. But the protagonist is merely part of the backdrop to what Antonioni tries to tell. It is a treat for any film-lover to watch, as there are some glorious Antonioni moments thrown in - you know you're in one when there's barely any sound let alone music, perhaps just the rustling of leaves in the breeze, or the occasional footsteps, with characters performing tasks that would normally seem too mundane to notice even - but absolutely riveting stuff in the hands of the master. And the well-rounded technical team involved in cinematography, set design, music, and editing, and the superb well-known cast aid Antonioni create this gem of a film by capturing a moment from the sixties like few others. Needless to say, this memorable film classic is Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link
(Recommended PAL edition DVD that contains an insightful commentary)

Compilation: Veruschka von Lehndorff, Vanessa Redgrave,
Jane Birkin, Gillian Hills,
and Sarah Miles
Not all scenes contain nudity, but by and large blog-related, they're barely clothed anyway.

Veruschka von Lehndorff, Vanessa Redgrave, Jane Birkin, Gillian Hills, and Sarah Miles in Blow-Up

Scene Guide:
  • Thomas going through the motions taking pictures of these stylish yet grotesque models - we will also learn he's not a particularly charming man. The first shoot is of supermodel Veruschka von Lehndorff, and we can see how Antonioni likens it to a sex session.
  • "Can I have the film please..." pleads a vulnerable looking Jane - she is willing to do whatever it takes to get it back from Thomas - the film roll containing pictures of her with a lover in a park. Vanessa Redgrave looks gorgeous as the distressed Jane.
  • Some respite from a hard day comes in the form of a brunette and a blonde, eager to get their pictures taken by the famous Thomas. And we will see the 'birds' are game for anything. The blonde is played by an up-and-coming Jane Birkin complete with her London accent, and the brunette by Gillian Hills.
  • No nudity but inserted it purely for the lovely Sarah Miles who plays Patricia - she gestures Thomas to stay and watch her making love to her boyfriend - his best friend.


Sunday, 11 March 2012

Scenes from Giuseppe Tornatore's "Il Camorrista" [1986 Italy]

Giuseppe Tornatore made his directorial debut with the crime drama "Il Camorrista" [Eng. Title: The Professor]. This would be our first glimpse of Tornatore's prodigious talent, which will blossom gloriously in his next project two years later - a film that I still consider possibly the greatest ever made. In case you're wondering, that is "Nuovo Cinema Paradiso" - if you love cinema and enjoy a hearty laugh and a cry in front of a screen, you must watch it. While I sometimes wish Tornatore had made a few more films, a part of me is glad to see him build his creative appetite by taking big time-off between projects - the result - every film of his is worthy of mention in the cinematic hall of fame. On another matter, if I ever venture south of Rome, it'll be thanks largely to watching his films.

Back to the debut, Tornatore scripted the screenplay loosely based on a biopic of a real-life Camorra leader - Camorra being the Neapolitan equivalent of the Sicilian Mafia. It charts the rise and fall of 'Il Professore', from a childhood of extreme poverty to the leader of the 'Reformed' Camorra, and moving among the rich and powerful including the American Cosa Nostra, even while a wanted fugitive. It is a gritty, very well-made crime drama that portrays life and politics as it was when these syndicates cast their long shadow over the lives of every southern Italian against a hopelessly inert State apparatus. Shot in the style of a docu-drama, Tornatore adds an air of urgency to happenings with tactical use of rough edits, giving a journalistic feel to it, and the film is ably aided by the soundtrack - elements that I think were necessary considering the fact that the voice of Ben Gazarra (who plays 'Il professore') was dubbed, and he certainly ain't no Al Pacino. It is nevertheless a fine film, and definitely Recommended Viewing.

Amazon DVD Link (Italian original)
English Subtitles

Compilation: Gilla Novak and others
The film's brief scenes of nudity occurs courtesy of 'Pelle-di-pesca' (Peachy skin), an aide to the Cosa Nostra representative in Milan. She befriends and seduces Ciro, a close associate of 'Il Professore', who will be betrayed. As retribution, both Ciro and Pelle-di-pesca will meet a terrible end in the hands of Il professore's sister Rosaria, played by the fine Spanish actress Laura del Sol. 'Pelle-di-pesca' however, is played by a bold-as-ever Gilla Novak.

Gilla Novak in Il Camorrista



Friday, 9 March 2012

Diana Bernedo & co in "Al Acecho del Leopardo" [2011, Mexico]

"Al Acheco del Leopardo" [Eng. title: The Stalking of the Leopard] is writer Enrique Renteria's first foray into directing feature-length films, and I'm sure it must have been a learning curve of sorts for him. Having said that, it isn't a bad effort, notwithstanding the odd continuity errors and a slightly underwhelming climax. But it is after all a typical Mexican mainstream thriller, and I've seen worse even from seasoned directors. The cinematography is actually pleasing to the eye, and of course, the customary inclusion of unbelievably beautiful people makes this film more than tolerable.

Amazon DVD Link

Spoiler-free Storyline:
Roman is on a camping expedition with two attractive young tourist friends, the Spanish Lorena and Brazilian Patricia, when he witnesses and even records the massacre of some Mexican Indian peasants by a man in a leopard-skin hat. Roman is spotted and instantly killed, and so is Patricia. Lorena escapes in the ensuing commotion, and is rescued by a travelling group of midget bullfighters. They offer to take her to safety in Mexico city where Eduardo, Roman's brother lives. But the assassin is determined to catch up with Lorena in order to leave no trace of what happened - he is after all doing the bidding for a very powerful man - the local governor. His relentless pursuit and Lorena's frantic efforts to escape unscathed is what the thriller is all about.

Compilation: Diana Bernedo, Andreia Martins, and Talía Marcela

Diana Bernedo, Andreia Martins, and Talía Marcela in Al Acecho del Leoprado

Scene Guide:
  • It's always a pleasure to see blog-related highlights appearing early on in film. Here we have Lorena and Patricia teasing Roman as they go skinny-dipping in the stream, unaware of a massacre about to happen in their vicinity. Lorena is played by a pretty Diana Bernedo, and Patricia by Brazilian model Andreia Martins. Nice..!
  • Good things don't last forever and soon poor Patricia meets a terrible end while an understandably petrified Lorena scrambles to safety.
  • Exhausted, bruised, and still naked, Lorena is picked up by a some travelling bullfighters who call themselves Bullfighters of Lilliput.
  • Eduardo tries to inform Maura, Roman's estranged and totally stoned wife about his brother's death, but her lover just wouldn't let him disturb her. A scuffle ensues. Maura is played by Talía Marcela.


Thursday, 8 March 2012

Alexandra Stewart & Cathryn Harrison in Louis Malle's "Black Moon" [1975 France, W.Germany]

During the time when Nouvelle Vague was in full flow, there was a French director who wasn't formally part of it, and yet explored cinema in his own unique way. Louis Malle started in film as a cameraman, and his evolution didn't stop with becoming a director - even as a successful director, he was always experimenting with new ways of telling stories just as he was exploring human nature through cinema. His can reasonably be considered one of the most varied body of work in film. While I have yet to discover many of his earlier classics, from what I've seen, his filmography is replete with controversial subject matter, sometimes also p*ssing off various governments for one reason or another. But they're all (the films, I mean) beautiful works - melancholic, filled with an air of foreboding, and deeply personal. While Malle also made films in the US, I hope to mainly focus on his European works in this blog.

"Black Moon" was one of his later films that his conventional fans might even consider an anomaly. Here we see Malle exploring the fairytale-fantasy genre and mixing it with modern-day politics and nightmares. Not only that - a life-long Indophile, he recreates imagery inspired from Indian folklore and rural life, and fuses it with Nordic/Gaelic symbolism to take us on a trippy journey - this is Alice in Wonderland after waking up from a night of rave, all in Malle's subdued style of course..! :-)

Human supremacy over the world is supposedly coming to an end as there's a war of all wars going on - between men and women. We see the world literally returned back to nature as husband executes wife, and sister slashes brother. Pubescent Lily, poorly disguised as a man, is ducking and weaving through gunfire to reach safety. Her less-frequented path leads to a dead-end. And a portly little unicorn! And some naked little urchins chasing a big fat pig, and soon a villa (Loius Malle's own home) inhabited by a bedridden old lady listening to her wireless set and talking to her rat called Humphrey. She seems to be looked after by a brother-sister duo - Lily, and Lily (no its not typo). This is just the first fifteen minutes of the film, and a lot more's coming your way..!

The film is visually stunning, thanks to the chilled out direction, Bergman-regular Sven Nykvist's magnificent cinematography, and the exquisite lighting where some of the compositions are like classical paintings. Music is used sparingly, and to telling effect. There's plenty of humour too, as young Lily tries to make sense of what's going on around her. Some feel it is a surreal coming-of-age film, some think it is political statement, some think this is just plain lunacy. But whatever you think, this film is one fascinating experience that you'll never forget easily. Even after several years. Needless to say, Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Box-set Link
Superb value for money - the box-set from which this compilation was made also includes some of his other late classics, and my favourite, "Au revoir les enfants". 


Compilation: Alexandra Stewart and Cathryn Harrison
Made from several blog-related scenes, it features a striking Alexandra Stewart (she also bore a child through Louis Malle) who plays Lily, the sister, and a charming fifteen year old Catherine Harrison (granddaughter of Rex Harrison) who plays young Lily the refugee. The rest of the cast includes veteran German stage actress Therese Giehse who plays the old lady - her last work and to whom the film's also dedicated to, and Warhol-regular Joe Dallesandro. The dialogues are in English which require no further explanation.

Alexandra Stewart and Cathryn Harrison in Black Moon


Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Neta Garty in Maria Schrader's "Liebesleben" [2007 Israel, Germany]

It's a rare occasion to introduce someone who's predominantly an actress as a director, even more so if that actress has an impressive nude portfolio of her own - German actress Maria Schrader is a legend in that aspect which of course will be discussed here in the near future. But the chosen subject for her screenplay and directorial debut in "Liebesleben" [Eng. Title: Love Life] is certainly fascinating and intriguing, to say the least. :)

Ms. Schrader provokes us with the very choice of her title - especially when we see more of obsession rather than love actually depicted through the film. But love there is, from unexpected quarters. Set in modern day Jerusalem, we follow the sudden upheaval in Ya'ara's hitherto 'planned' existence - a young married woman working on her masters degree, with a promising career and blissful life ahead of her. It was her introduction to Arie, a friend of her father that kindles a passion in Ya'ara hitherto unknown, even risking her marriage, family, and dignity in its pursuit. A family in denial's dirty linen is forcibly exhibited much to Ya'ara's dismay, through her own impulsive behaviour. Some of the situations Ya'ara gets into are quite hilarious, which makes me wonder if this could have worked better as a comedy taking a wry look at people's idiosyncrasies in their quest to fulfil hidden desires, rather than a drama that at times seems forced and needlessly drawn out. But since you all know I hate to be critical of anyone making their directorial debut, I'd say the debut has been a qualified success.

It certainly has several things going for it - the characterisation from a woman's perspective which is refreshingly frank, the clean cinematography aided by the stunning locations, and the sound engineering. While we may have to deal with the accented English (charming in some ways), it is a simple film that doesn't try to say too much, but also throws a rare non-cliché'd glimpse into middle-class Jewish life. Recommended Viewing. DVD Link

Compilation: Neta Garty

Neta Garty in Maria Schrader's Liebnesleben

Scene Guide:
  • No nudity but sexy. Ya'ara impulsively tries on Arie's trousers at a boutique changing room, only to be caught with the wrong red-handed. Ya'ara is played by young Israeli actress Neta Graty (credited as Netta Garti).
  • No nudity - Ya'ara invites herself into Arie's house and he has fleeting pointless sex with her to get her out of the way.
  • On her way home, Ya'ara imagines herself as Arie's trophy paraded in public.
  • Ya'ara hands over her panties in the car (as self-respecting married women do to strangers, I guess), and soon finds herself making love to Arie while his Turkish friend watches, before joining in..!
  • An embarrassed Ya'ara tries to escape the groping middle-aged men, only to find herself naked among some workers restoring the building.
  • As if that wasn't humiliation enough, it turns out Arie's Turkish friend is also a friend of her family..!
  • Ya'ara, during one of her 'impulsive' vists to Arie's - she'd changed her mind about accompanying her hubby to Istanbul - finds herself naked (again) in the bathroom that her father, Arie's guest is wanting to use. She hides herself in the bath, but nevertheless ends up drawing his attention. Could this get any worse for the poor sod - catching his daughter naked at a friend's house, who'd also had an affair with his wife years ago..?!


Thursday, 1 March 2012

Béatrice Romand in Rohmer's "Le Beau Mariage" [1982 France]

Here's your typical Eric Rohmer. "Le Beau Mariage" [Eng. Title: A Good Marriage] is a charming little comedy about a young woman's desperate quest for social mobility. Rohmer gently pokes fun at society's obsession with idealised myths, a perfect marriage in this instance, using the female protagonist as the butt of his jokes. What makes it engaging and a pleasure to watch is the beautifully structured screenplay, the almost perfect shot selection, and the dialogues laced with Rohmer's customary dry wit. Every single frame in the film is absolutely essential - the editing is that good. This post is merely an excuse to get across that point to anyone who would care to listen, there otherwise being very little need to talk about nudity in the film. A superb comedy from a French master, this late Nouvelle Vague gem is Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link
(a good deal going at the time of this post)

Sabine is fed up being a married man's mistress, she now wants to have an ideal marriage and get settled. Seems like a good idea, only she needs to find a suitor first. Enter Sabine's best friend Clarisse, the one she subconsciously tries to emulate. Suburban Clarisse is married and self employed by doing what she likes best, handicrafts. Despite Clarisse's worldly advise, Sabine is determined to seduce and marry the 'ideal' husband when she sees one. She finds the idea of marrying Clarisse's Parisian cousin Edmond appealing, and decides to pursue him vigorously, even as it becomes clear to us that he's not remotely interested in getting married, least of all to Sabine. But she is confident of her charms and chases him despite becoming increasingly aware that she herself might not be in love with him after all. It takes some plain talking from Edmond to bring Sabine back to her senses. The teasing ending is probably the best I've seen in a little while, as we see a resourceful Sabine get back on her feet after such an embarrassing fall from grace in front of Edmond. The film stars Rohmer regulars Béatrice Romand as Sabine, and the utterly delightful Arielle Dombasle as Clarisse.

Scene: Béatrice Romand
In the only brief nude scene in the film, we see Sabine walk off the bed when lover Simon gets a call from his wife and children in the middle of the night. It is then that Sabine decides to find herself a husband of her own and get settled, much to the annoyance of Simon. Béatrice Romand who plays Sabine has shown more in other films than this dinky little scene, notably the classic "Themroc" which as far as I know has never been released on DVD.