4 Shots From 4 Films: Coffy, They Call Her One Eye, Cleopatra Jones, Ms. 45


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films is all about letting the visuals do the talking.

I was going to use four other shots for today but then I was inspired by my sister’s pick for artwork of the day.

For those who might question my decision to highlight four grindhouse films on International Women’s Day, I kindly refer them to my essay, Too Sordid To Ever Be Corrupted.

4 Shots From 4 Films

Coffy (1973, dir by Jack Hill)

Thriller, A Cruel Picture a.k.a. They Call Her One Eye (1973, dir by Bo Arne Vibenius)

Cleopatra Jones (1973, dir by Jack Starrett)

Ms. 45 (1981, dir by Abel Ferrara)

Artwork of the Day: Ms. 45


ms45poster

I don’t know who designed the poster for the classic 1981 film, Ms. 45, but it is truly brilliant.

Directed by Abel Ferrara, Ms. 45 tells the story of a mute seamstress named Thana (played by Zoe Tamerlis) who, after being raped twice in one day, uses a 45 caliber pistol to take revenge on almost every man in New York City.  The film’s tagline announces, “She was used and abused — and it will never happen again!” and Ms. 45 is a feminist masterpiece, one that exposed and attacked the same type of men who, undoubtedly expecting to see a typically low-budget, nudity-filled revenge flick, probably flocked down to 42nd Street to see the film when it was originally released.

Like the film itself, the poster is a work of transgressive brilliance, promising sex and violence while, at the same time, announcing that Thana was never again going to be a victim of an exploitive and patriarchal society.  One can only imagine how many men were lured into the theater by the legs on this poster, just to then by left in a state of shock as they literally watched themselves being blown away and punished for their misogyny on screen.  (Reportedly, even the most hardened of grindhouse audiences were left stunned by Ms. 45‘s intense final scene.)

The poster for Ms. 45 is definitely one of the best in grindhouse history and it’s also our latest artwork of the day!

(If you want to read more about my feelings about Ms. 45 and grindhouse cinema in general, please be sure to read my rightfully acclaimed essay on the subject, Too Sordid To Ever Be Corrupted.)

 

 

 

4 Shots From 4 Films: Brainwashed, A Clockwork Orange, They Live, Body Snatchers


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films is all about letting the visuals do the talking.

4 Shots From 4 Films

Brainwashed (1960, dir by Gerd Oswlad)

Brainwashed (1960, dir by Gerd Oswald)

A Clockwork Orange (1971, dir by Stanley Kubrick)

A Clockwork Orange (1971, dir by Stanley Kubrick)

They Live (1988, dir by John Carpenter)

They Live (1988, dir by John Carpenter)

Body Snatchers (1993, dir by Abel Ferrara)

Body Snatchers (1993, dir by Abel Ferrara)

Playing Catch Up: Welcome to New York (dir by Abel Ferrara)


Welcome_to_New_York_(2014)

Gerard Depardieu is naked a lot in Welcome to New York and I know you’re probably being snarky and sarcastically thinking, “Well, then I’m definitely going to track down this film…” but actually, the frequent display of Depardieu’s body gets to the heart of what makes his performance so memorable.  Playing an extremely unsympathetic role, Depardieu doesn’t hide the character’s depravity from the audience.  He reveals every inch of the character, from his flabby body to his empty soul.  It takes courage to bring such an unsympathetic character to life and talent to keep the audience watching and fortunately, Depardieu has both of those.

Welcome to New York opens with Depardieu (as himself) talking to a group of reporters and explaining why he’s decided to play a character based on Dominique Strauss-Kahn in Abel Ferrara’s upcoming movie.  It’s an interesting way to start, both because it features Depardieu’s scornful opinion of politicians and because it leaves no doubt that, even if Depardieu’s character has been renamed Devereaux, Welcome to New York is directly based on the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case.

(Dominique Strauss-Kahn, of course, was the wealthy French socialist who many thought was going to be the next President of France until he was arrested after raping a hotel maid in New York City.  As a wealthy and well-connected white man, he was acquitted of raping the maid, who neither wealthy, well-connected, or white.   Throughout the trial, the usual collection of elitists complained about how Americans just didn’t understand French culture but, ultimately, Strauss-Kahn’s political career was ended by the scandal.)

Welcome to New York closely follows the facts of the Strauss-Kahn case.  Wealthy banker and politician Devereaux is in New York on business.  When he meets his daughter and her boyfriend, he spends the entire lunch asking them about their sex life.  When he returns to his hotel, he and his business associates hire a group of prostitutes and have one of the most depressing orgies ever captured on film.

I have to admit that during these first part of the film, I was often tempted to turn off Welcome To New York.  No, it wasn’t that the film was too explicit.  Instead, my problem was that Devereaux was such a dull character.  Devereaux has a lot of sex during the first third of the film but, at no point, does he seem to enjoy it.  Instead, he is detached from everything happening around him and it doesn’t exactly make for compelling viewing.

But, as the film played out, I realized that we weren’t supposed to find Devereaux in any way compelling.  Instead, Devereaux is portrayed as a hollow and empty shell.  For him, sex is all about entitlement and power.  After his is arrested for raping the hotel maid, Devereaux appears to be more surprised than anything else.  Rather than feeling regret at being caught or even fear that he might be convicted, Devereaux seems to be shocked that a man of his wealth would be held responsible for his actions.

After Devereaux is arrested, the film’s pace picks up a bit.  Devereaux’s wife, Simone (Jacqueline Bisset), flies to New York and takes over her husband’s defense.  It’s not that Simone feels that Devereaux has been wrongly accused.  In fact, Simone really doesn’t seem to care much for her husband in general.  However, Simone is determined that Devereaux is going to be the next president of France and she certainly has no intention of allowing some American criminal case to stand in his way.  Bisset gives a chilling performance as the almost fanatically driven Simone.

Soon, Devereaux is under house arrest and staying at a rented house.  (For these scenes, Welcome to New York filmed in the same house that Strauss-Kahn stayed at during his trial.)  It’s while locked away in the house that Devereaux finally starts to realize that he has gone too far.  It’s in the house that Devereaux remembers the man he was once was and is forced to confront the man that he has become.

Welcome to New York is not always an easy film to watch but, thanks to Depardieu and Bisset’s ferocious performances, it’s a film that will reward patient viewers.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Thriller, Switchblade Sisters, Death Has Blue Eyes, Ms. 45


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films.  As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films is all about letting the visuals do the talking.

4 Shots From 4 Films

Thriller, A Cruel Picture a.k.a. They Call Her One Way (1973, dir by Bo Arne Vibenius)

Thriller, A Cruel Picture a.k.a. They Call Her One Eye (1973, dir by Bo Arne Vibenius)

Switchblade Sisters (1975, dir by Jack Hill)

Switchblade Sisters (1975, dir by Jack Hill)

Death Has Blue Eyes (1976, dir by Nico Mastorakis)

Death Has Blue Eyes (1976, dir by Nico Mastorakis)

Ms. 45 (1981, dir by Abel Ferrara)

Ms. 45 (1981, dir by Abel Ferrara)

 

Trailer: Welcome to New York


PCAS

Director Abel Ferrara’s thinly disguised film about French rapist Dominique Strauss-Kahn is finally getting an American release.  On March 27th, those of us in the states will finally get a chance to see and judge Welcome to New York for ourselves.  Here’s the trailer.

6 More Films From 2012: 4:44: Last Day On Earth, First Position, Flight, The Paperboy, Red Tails, and The Trouble With Bliss


Continuing my desperate attempt to review all of the 2012 films that I’ve seen but haven’t gotten around to reviewing yet, here’s six more reviews.

1) 4:44: Last Day On Earth (dir. by Abel Ferrara)

Whether it’s because of the Mayan calendar or the fact the Obama got reelected, people seem to be obsessed with the end of the world right now and it’s been the subject of several recent films.  4:44: Last Day On Earth is one of the more low-key entries in this genre.

Willem DaFoe plays a New York-based actor who deals with the impending end of the world by meditating in his loft, having sex with his much younger girlfriend, and having awkward conversations on Skype with his daughter.  As opposed to the characters in several other end of the world films, DaFoe doesn’t use the situation as an excuse to go on a quest for true love.  Unlike 2012, there’s no talk of escaping the apocalypse.  Instead, the world is ending and DaFoe has no choice but to accept it.  From a cinematic point of view, DaFoe’s passivity can be frustrating (4:44 is a film that’s willing to be boring to make its point) but, at the same time, it does force a viewer like me to wonder how she would handle the end of the world in a way that a film like Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World does not.

One interesting thing that distinguishes 4:44 from other end-of-the-world films is that, in 4:44, the world ends specifically because of the actions of mankind.  Whereas films like Melancholia and Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World presented a random apocalypse, 4:44 presents the apocalypse as the fitting punishment for the sins of humanity.  While I could have done without the scenes of DaFoe listening to Al Gore droning on and on about global warming (because, seriously, Gore always sounds like the creepy community college professor who you know is having an affair with one of his students), this still adds an interesting element to the film.

4:44 requires a bit of tolerance and a lot of patience but it’s still a film that’s worthy of being seen.

2) First Position (dir. by Bess Kargman)

First Position is a documentary about ballet so, of course, you know that I loved it.  The film follows six young dancers as they prepare for the Youth American Grand Prix in New York City and it brought back a lot of memories (both good and bad) for me.  First Position captures both the beauty and the pain of both dance and life.

3) Flight (dir. by Robert Zemeckis)

In Flight, Denzel Washington plays a cocky and talented pilot who is also an alcoholic and a drug addict.  In a truly harrowing sequence, the plane that Washington is piloting goes into a nosedive over Atlanta.  After Washington manages to crash-land the plane with only a few fatalities, he finds himself hailed as both a hero and also under investigation.  Working with a union rep (Bruce Greenwood) and a slick attorney (Don Cheadle), Washington tries to cover up his mistakes while, at the same time, romancing a recovering heroin addict (Kelly Reilly).

Flight has a brilliant opening and a strong ending.  Unfortunately, the middle of the film tends to drag.  Flight also suffers from the fact that cinematic addicts are always more fun to watch when they’re under the influence as opposed to when they’re getting sober.  On the plus side, the film itself is well-acted and the cast is always fun to watch even when the rest of the film is getting bogged down.  Washington is brilliant in the lead role and John Goodman has a great cameo as the world’s most helpful drug dealer.

4) The Paperboy (dir by Lee Daniels)

In 1960s Florida, Hillary Van Wetter (an amazingly sleazy John Cusack) is on death row for the murder of a small town sheriff.  His girlfriend, the flamboyant Charlotte Bess (Nicole Kidman), convinces reporter Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) to return to his hometown and investigate the case against Van Wetter.  With the help of his younger brother (Zac Efron) and an arrogant colleague (David Oyelowo), Ward works to get Van Wetter off of death row but it becomes obvious that all of the film’s characters are hiding secrets of their own.

The Paperboy has a few isolated moments where it achieves a certain pulp poetry but, for the most part, Lee Daniels’ follow-up to his Academy Award-winning Precious is a total and complete mess.  Unfortunately, it’s not even all that interesting of a mess.  Nicole Kidman’s vampish performance and her white trash femme fatale outfits are definitely the film’s highlight.  As for Zac Efron, he’s not much of an actor but he’s pipin’, boilin’ hot.  It’s just  too bad the character that he’s playing isn’t that interesting.

In the end, The Paperboy showcases everything that didn’t work about Precious and nothing that did.

5) Red Tails (dir. by Anthony Hemingway)

Red Tails was one of the first “major” releases of 2012 and it’s also one of the most forgettable.  The film, which was executive produced and reportedly co-directed by George Lucas, is based on the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-Americans who served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II and who had to not only fight Nazis abroad but racial discrimination at home.  There’s undoubtedly an inspiring story to be told here but Red Tails is such a predictable and corny film that it feels as if Lucas and Hemingway essentially wasted the real life story of the Tuskegee Airmen on a painfully generic movie.

6) The Trouble With Bliss (dir. by Michael Knowles)

Morris Bliss (played by Michael C. Hall) is the type of guy who always seems to show up in quirky independent films.  He has no job, he has no money, and he lives in a tiny apartment with his father (Peter Fonda).  Since there’s nothing more attractive than a middle-aged guy with no future, he finds himself being pursued by an 18 year-old (Brie Larson), who also happens to be the daughter of a former high school classmate, and his married neighbor (played by Lucy Liu).

I have a weakness for quirky indie films but the nonstop quirkiness of The Trouble of With Bliss feels less like narrative imagination and more like total desperation.  Michael C. Hall’s a likable actor but he essentially turns Morris Bliss into Dexter Morgan and, as a result, I kept expected for the trouble with Bliss to turn out to be that he had about a few dozen bodies hidden away in a closet somewhere.

Now that would have been a quirky film!

Shut up, Billy Dee Williams — It’s Time For Six More Trailers


Here’s the latest edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Trailers.  (I know, I know — worst intro paragraph evuh!  Following the tradition of the Pieces trailer, which can be found below, I’m keeping things simple.  I’ll be back to my usual complicated self next week.)

1) Fear City

Believe it or not, this was directed by Abel Ferrara, the same man who directed Ms. 45Fear City is one of the few Ferrara films that I haven’t seen but the trailer just oozes sleaze doesn’t it?  And speaking of sleaze, maybe that’s what all the men in this film were putting in their hair.  Seriously, why not call it Gel City?  And how about Billy Dee Williams there, sounding like the angel of the final judgment?  Shut up, Billy Dee Williams!

2) A Cat In The Brain

This is one of Lucio Fulci’s final films and you’re either going to love it or you’re going to hate it.  The film is surprisingly meta for an Italian horror film not directed by Michele Soavi.  This is the one where Fulci plays himself and attempts to personally answer his critics.  Anyway, the reason I love this trailer is because of the cat puppet that appears at the end.  It’s so cute!  (Ignore the quote from Clive Barker — he’s almost as much of a whore as Stephen King.)

3) Pieces

“It’s exactly what you think it is!”  Anyone who wants to go into advertising should watch this and learn.

4) The Stud

I imagine this is another film that’s “exactly what you think it is.”  I love trailers that show off what was considered to be chic and decadent in the past.  This is one is from the 70s.  (Surprised?)

5) Cannibal Apocalypse

While the rich people were partying in London, cannibals were apparently ruling the streets of Atlanta.  According to actor John Saxon, starring in Cannibal Apocalypse made him suicidal.  Cannibal Apocalypse is actually a pretty good film with an anti-war subtext and it features a great supporting performance from Giovanni Lombardo Radice so seriously — shut up, John Saxon!  (Actually, Saxon gives a really great performance here — of course, his character is meant to be suicidal — and he’s the main reason that Cannibal Apocalypse works.)

6) Cannibal Man

Much like Cannibal Apocalypse, Cannibal Man is actually an allegory of alienation that’s disguised as a horror movie.  Cannibal Man is a seriously strange movie and highly recommended.