Archive for the 'French' Category

20
Jan
17

The Demoniacs (1974)

It’s not that I don’t like Jean Rollin, because I do, actually. Even still, every time we watch one of his flicks the first thing I wonder is how long it will be before I end up drifting off to sleep? Well, the magic number with The Demoniacs was 46 minutes.

demoniacswreckers

The wreckers are out for loot… and blood!

Rollin definitely has his thing, namely mute naked chicks roaming around in gothic settings. And fear not, there is plenty of that to be had here. The mute naked chicks in question in The Demoniacs are the latest victims of a ragged band of wreckers (folks who trick ships into wrecking on the shore and then pillaging their contents). Their ship crashes, they wander towards the wreckers in their white linens all helpless and stuff, and of course are raped and left for dead.

demoniacsghost

Seeking ghostly revenge

Somehow the mute naked chicks end up at the local ruins where they find a clown, a Jesus, and I dunno, a devil or something? They make a deal with the devilish character, and obtain his power through sex (just in case you forgot you were watching a Jean Rollin movie) in order to seek revenge against the evil wreckers.

demoniacsclowningaround

Clowning Around

So, as is usually the case with Rollin’s flicks, there are some really good-looking moments (perhaps he should’ve done photography instead of film?). Alas, he can’t seem to string them together in any meaningful way. More than any other flick of his, The Demoniacs left me perplexed as to what it was actually about or what, if anything, it was trying to say. It was almost good, which makes it all the more frustrating that it wasn’t really worth a damn in the end. That being said, there are some truly bizarre moments that I don’t regret having experienced, and the boldness with which Rollin plants naked women in unlikely scenes and poses amused me until the very end. Still, I can’t really say that I’d recommend this movie to anyone.

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29
Aug
15

Fat Girl (2001)

Anaïs getting her banana split on, while she watches her sister Elena get her make-out on. Awkward...

Anaïs getting her banana split on, while she watches her sister Elena get her make-out on. Awkward…

Catherine Breillat’s Fat Girl is a difficult, unnerving, uncomfortable film. I’d never seen any of Breillat’s work previously, I’d only read that she was a “controversial” director. After watching Fat Girl it’s pretty obvious why the film community has slapped that label on her. This had been on the to-watch list for, oh, three years before we finally got around to it. It’s not exactly high up on the list for Saturday night entertainment, unless you’re in a particular mood to be challenged and made to feel totally gross.

The film is about two sisters. Elena is a freshly postpubescent beauty, ready to explore her sexuality, but only with someone she loves. Her younger sister Anaïs is anxious for a roll in the hay, too, but she thinks it’d be more ideal to lose her virginity to someone she didn’t really care about. Anaïs is also fat, certainly something Breillat is not about to let her audience forget: the film is peppered with scenes of Anaïs eating: a banana split while her sister makes out with an older boy at a local cafe, a huge plate of food at breakfast compared to everyone else’s more modest helpings, and my

There there sister, this piece of bread will make you feel better.

There there sister, this piece of bread will make you feel better.

favorite, a scene of Elena feeding her a piece of bread to make her feel better.

Their family is on a beach vacation. Ah, beach vacations during the coming-of-age times always result in such drama, don’t they? Elena “falls in love” with Fernando, the aforementioned older boy who sneaks into their cabin at night and convinces Elena to go much further sexually than she’s ready for – all while Anaïs is jealously watching. Elena’s affair strains her already contentious relationship with Anaïs; the two seem to routinely switch between hating each-other and desperately needing one-another. I think it’s fair to say they depend on one-another more than not, as it is clear through the family scenes Mom and Dad have better things to do than concern themselves with the lives of their daughters.

So much about this movie stings! I myself have never been a skinny beauty, so all those scenes of Anaïs eating her jealousy away really cut to the core. That’s not to say the film is made for any particular demographic; watching Elena in bed with Fernando is just as cutting and cringe-worthy. Even further, watching the two girls hurt each-other is hard to watch for anyone. Worst of all though, is the shocking ending that comes out of

Elena learning to navigate her feminine wiles.

Elena learning to navigate her feminine wiles.

nowhere. Yes, I’m going to bait you like that – of course I’m not going to tell you what happens. But, my god Catherine B, that is some cold-ass shit!

Even though it is painful, or perhaps because it is, I really liked this movie. What good is a movie if it doesn’t evoke some sort of strong emotion, right? I like how Breillat makes it a point to get into the heads of both of these girls, proving the world is no better a place for a young beauty than it is for a Fat Girl. We all have our struggles, and they’re all different, and that’s what makes it so damn hard to understand another person’s motivations, even if they’re family. Fat Girl is definitely not for the faint of heart, but if you’re up for a challenge, it is more than worth a watch; it is a very good film indeed.

13
Nov
14

Fascination (1979)

Okay friends, this is it, the last post for this year’s 31 Days of Horror! Hey, it’s only a few weeks late, could’ve been worse, right? Our 31st horror pick for this year’s set is Jean Rollin’s Fascination. It should surprise no one acquainted with Rollin’s filmography it’s an erotic lesbian vampire thriller thing, with a whole lot of really good-looking scenes (and women) and a lot of shrugged shoulders as far as plot is concerned.

The movie starts off in an abattoir. Two genteel ladies are told consuming fresh ox blood will be good for their health. Though hesitant at first, the ladies eventually come to appreciate the refreshing tonic. But we’ll get back to that in a bit: first, let’s meet Marc.

Marc: bewildered, intrigued... fascinated?

Marc: bewildered, intrigued… fascinated?

Marc is a petty thief. He made a deal with a band of other petty thieves to do some petty thieving, but ended up stealing all the loot for himself. After unsuccessfully taking one of the other thieves hostage, Marc ducks into a seemingly empty château in hopes of hiding from them until sunset, when he can escape under the cover of night. Marc quickly learns the château isn’t empty at all: two ladies-in-waiting, Eva and Elizabeth, are preparing the place for the owners to return. And by preparing the place, I mean playing with knives and running around naked and stuff.

Eva and Elizabeth... so pretty!

Eva and Elizabeth… so pretty!

Marc tries to scare the ladies into submission, but it seems they’re more turned on than scared. So like any red-blooded French thief, Marc goes with the flow. Elizabeth is more than happy to submit to his whims, but Eva seems genuinely taken with the man. The two keep warning him that at midnight, death herself will arrive. Marc is nothing but amused by this, and he decides to hang around and see what all the fuss is about.

Definitely the most striking image from the Fascination.

Definitely the most striking image from the Fascination.

Right on cue, a bevy of sexy ladies show up! Marc doesn’t know exactly what kind of club he’s found himself surrounded by, but it seems like he’s hit the jackpot! You and I of course might suspect this meeting might have something to do with the abattoir from the beginning of the film. Sure enough, turns out these ladies are thirsty for human blood, and Marc is the right prey at the right time for them to feast upon. But things are complicated by Eva’s genuine feelings for him: will she betray her coven of witches to save his life?

Things didn't end well for this pretty little lady thief.

Things didn’t end well for this pretty little lady thief.

Fascination is one pretty picture after another; I took so many stills from it and wish I could use them all. It just looks absolutely beautiful. The plot is sort of interesting, I suppose, but I didn’t really care whether or not Marc survives, or what becomes of his relationship with either lady, or what these mysterious women actually plan on doing to him or each-other. I cared more about what they were wearing (or not wearing, I guess). This movie, like other Rollin movies I’ve seen, is all about style. If Fascination has something to say, I’m not sure at all what it is.

Sexy ladies in see-through nighties meet up for an annual blood-sucking party? Who wouldn't want to see this?

Sexy ladies in see-through nighties meet up for an annual blood-sucking party? Who wouldn’t want to see this?

I will admit to having fallen asleep to Rollin’s Rape of the Vampire, so I can’t make a legitimate comparison between the two films except to say Fascination kept the plot moving along enough to keep me awake! Aside from those two, the only other Rollin I’d seen was Living Dead Girl, which I remember digging a whole hell of a lot but it’s been too long now to make a real call about it. Suffice it to say Fascination was good enough to get me pumped for watching the other Rollin we have in our collection, and I think it’s probably a safe starting point for anyone who’s down with sexy French lesbian vampires with very flimsy excuses for being nude.

23
Mar
14

Rubber (2010)

rubberposterUsually after watching a film, I have some idea what it was about. Additionally, it is normal for me to have some sense of how the movie made me feel: did I like it? Dislike it? Did I feel nothing? Almost always I’m able to answer all of these questions in some way, shape or form. In the case of Rubber, however, I must confess I am not entirely sure of the answer to any of those questions.

The movie starts off with a little lesson on Hollywood films. Movies have always had things happen for no reason at all, and we are told that this movie will be no different at all – in fact, Rubber is a sort of ode to “No Reason.” So when a group of random people who have no connection to one another collect together in the desert and don binoculars to watch a “movie” I try to let go of my skepticism and just go with it. Soon enough though, it is apparent the weirdness has only begun.

Finally, the “movie” starts: a tire named Robert has been left out in the desert to rot, and seemingly out of nowhere wakes up and begins to move. As it starts its journey out of the desert, it runs into things and has an urge to destroy them: water bottles, bunny rabbits, cars on the road with pretty girls behind the wheel, you name it! He has no problem destroying most of these things, he just vibrates insanely until the object of his ire explodes. Anyone who crosses Robert’s path is subject to his telekinetic whims.

Robert follows the pretty girl to a motel, where he leaves behind a trail of destruction. Eventually the cops show up, and it is here we find out that the Sheriff, Chad, is also in league with the people showing the “movie.” It seems they are on a quest to make the “movie” as short as possible, and will stop at nothing to destroy their own audience.

This movie is nothing if not filled with surprises, so it would be silly of me to reveal them all here. Suffice it to say, whatever you think is going to happen is probably not going to happen and vice versa. Rubber is truly one of the most bizarre and baffling films I’ve ever seen, and as I’ve already said, to this day I am still not sure if I liked it or not! Either way, the movie is certainly intriguing and I’m curious to see what else the director (Quentin Dupieux) has to offer. It is definitely entertaining; really, what could be more fun than watching a movie that could go in any direction it wanted? I’m still not sure what the point of the thing is, or if there was a point at all? Was this story shared with us for “No Reason”?

I can safely say that if you are a person who likes a movie with a clearly told plot, a discernible beginning, middle and end and lovable, relatable characters this is NOT going to be the movie for you. But if you appreciate a film that plays with its audience’s head and turns everything upside down, this is a must-see. That’s not to say that you’ll like it, but at the very least it will get you thinking.

 

13
Feb
14

Eyes Without a Face (1960)

Writing silly blog posts about schlocky b-horror and the like isn’t a hard thing to do; such films don’t necessarily demand quality reviews. The task of writing up a legitimately “Good” movie is much more daunting. For example, how can the words of an amateur movie geek possibly do a film like Georges Franju’s Eyes Without a Face any sort of justice? The truth is, I probably can’t. This, of course, is not going to stop me from trying.

Louise (Alida Valli), the doctor's ever-loyal assistant, looking for a good place to dispose of a body...

Louise (Alida Valli), the doctor’s ever-loyal assistant, looking for a good place to dispose of a body…

Dr. Génessier is France’s premier surgeon, famous for his lectures and innovative techniques. Lesser known is his penchant for hideous experimentation; his secluded, maximum-security laboratory is home to many poor creatures who are subject to his scientific whims. One of these subjects happens to be his very own daughter, Christiane. Unfortunately for her, she has yet to fully recover from a car accident caused by her father’s carelessness. She is suffering perhaps the worst deformity a person could imagine: she has no face.

After “escaping” from the hospital, the authorities have no idea what’s happened to poor Christiane, until they find a body in the local river. They are convinced it must be Christiane, for the corpse had no face. Once Dr. Génessier confirms the body is indeed Christiane’s, he no longer has to worry about his daughter being found by the cops, and he can continue on his mission to graft a new face onto his daughter.

A bandaged victim.

A bandaged victim.

The only way to do this, of course, is to lure unsuspecting young and beautiful girls to the laboratory. He does this with the help of his assistant, Louise (Alida Valli, whom you probably know from Suspiria), whose own face is a triumph of the good doctor’s surgical abilities. Naturally indebted to him for life, she skulks around town looking for unattached young women who could do without their faces.

While the doctor claims his intentions are only to help save the life and happiness of his daughter, it is clear the man is a real ego case with an awful lot to prove; he cares not that his daughter is kept prisoner in her own home, thought dead by everyone, including her poor fiance, Jacques. He also seems not to care a lick that he must ruin the lives of other young women to preserve his status as France’s top surgeon. Christiane is filled with despair, not knowing if she will ever escape life behind a terrible, expressionless mask. With her overbearing father and Louise constantly watching her, how will she ever get out?

And a masked victim.

And a masked victim.

This movie is creepy to the Nth degree! Masks often provoke discomfort and horror, no? Here, there is also sadness: Christiane does not want to be cooped up alone for the whole of her life while her father attempts to perfect his surgical résumé, and even though we cannot see her face, there is something inherently sad about that expressionless mask. Each time she calls her fiance Jacques and hears his voice, but cannot respond, it’s almost as though the mask gets a little bit sadder.

The film is also surprisingly gory for 1960; the surgical scenes are pretty up-close-and-personal, not leaving a whole heck of a lot to the imagination. Still, it’s nothing compared to the ridiculous, in-your-face garbage most horror flicks tout today. Perhaps that’s just because there isn’t much of the envelope left to push these days? Either way, Eyes Without a Face definitely earns its horror badge, though the film is in large part a crime drama in addition to a horror flick. Anyway, the film is more creepy-horror than gory-horror; the domineering father, the mystery behind the mask, the wanton kidnapping of young women for dreadful surgical purposes; all of these elements will no doubt inspire horror and disgust in the viewer!

Finally, it would be wrong of me to write up this post without mentioning Pedro Almodóvar’s recent film The Skin I Live In. While not a direct remake of Eyes Without a Face, Almodóvar more than nods to Franju, and while watching Eyes all I could think about is how desperately I need a copy of The Skin I Live In! If only more filmmakers could show imagination and flair while nodding to their predecessors instead of blatantly ripping them off or doing soulless remakes…

21
Sep
13

La Femme Publique (1984)

After watching my third Żuławski film, La Femme Publique, I’m only sure of one thing: I’m not at all sure about this Żuławski guy. All of the characters I’ve met so far are unstable, unhinged, and unsavory, and those in La Femme Publique are certainly no exception. That being said, I’m not sure I can stay away from him, either. I’m attracted to the instability of not only his characters, but his plot lines as well. I’m not quite certain how to label La Femme Publique; it’s a mixture of mystery, political thriller, psychological drama, art house, and who knows what else. It’s one of those winding plots that makes you scratch your head wondering how you got to point Z from point A, and what did  Exhibit Q have to do with it the whole time anyway?

Ethel's audition.

Ethel’s audition.

So, what is La Femme Publique about? The film is centered around Ethel, a beautiful young woman who takes her clothes off and dances for men while they photograph her. She’s so intense, she makes them cry, or have heart-attacks, or both. But, Ethel wants more; she wants to be in the movies. So, she auditions for one – a film version of Dostoevsky’s The Possessed. The director is Lucas Kessling, a Czech immigrant who is cocky enough to think he can get a good performance out of Ethel’s mediocre abilities. All the while, Ethel’s family is falling apart – her father is constantly running away from gambling debts, while her mother is attempting suicide because she can’t get over her guilt about the whole thing. They scream, they drink, they cry, and some of them die. (Actually, this might be an appropriate synopsis for all the Żuławski I’ve seen up to this point!)

Shooting.

Shooting.

Anyway, Kessling is clearly trying to take advantage of Ethel’s naive fragility, while exploiting her inherently fierce nature for the screen. He is, of course, also sleeping with her, as well as some other woman, whom Ethel believes matches the description of a corpse they just pulled out of the river. She tries to prove it, and in her search for proof she meets the woman’s husband, Milan. Slowly but surely, Ethel ends up taking over the woman’s identity: wearing her shoes, dyeing her hair, and resuming her spot in the relationship with Milan. Milan, perhaps more than any other character in the film, is way off the rails. He is always carrying around a gun, and eventually is pushed over the edge by Kessling and commits political assassination.

Milan and the mysterious woman.

Milan and the mysterious woman.

So, what does it all mean? Well, surely it has something to do with Żuławski’s tumultuous relationship with his home country. His films have never really been accepted in Poland, a place from which he’s fled multiple times. But exactly what he’s putting out there I just couldn’t grasp. Perhaps I was too distracted by the blatant misogyny which permeates the film. Ethel’s character, though very emotional strong at times, is also extremely vulnerable and almost always seen by others as merely an object of sexual attraction: complete strangers fondle her in elevators, for instance, and I just can’t figure out what purpose it serves the film. What does it mean that she uses her body to fuel her father’s gambling habit? That she must forsake her individual self and play the part of a dead woman in order to fully embrace the acting role in which the director has placed her? I get a Hounddog vibe out of the whole thing, seems Żuławski and Kampmeier both believe that women are incapable of artful expression without being raped, demoralized and robbed of their senses of selves.

Elevator assault.

Elevator assault.

The internet doesn’t have much to say about this film, which is a shame because I’d really like to know what everyone else thinks of it. As it stands right now, I’m just not sure if I hated it or thought it was good enough. I know I didn’t love it; towards the middle and through to the end, I found it exhausting. There were at least three or four spots where I thought the movie could have ended, but exasperatingly, it didn’t. Still, the movie is intriguing enough that I might watch it again, if for no other reason to try and figure out if a second viewing will answer any of the questions I have! A second viewing of La Femme Publique may not happen any time soon, but I know for sure that I’ll watch another Żuławski  in a heartbeat; I’m far too curious about what he produces, what’s going on in his brain, and what he might do next in any given film.

13
Aug
13

Carnival of Sinners (1943)

Sometimes all it takes for me to want to see a movie is a single image. Somewhere in my (read: Q’s) internet travels we came upon an image of a man wearing a pig mask. I wanted to know where it was from, and thanks to the wonders of the world wide web, we were able to find out that it came from a French flick from the 40’s called La Main du Diable, or Carnival of Sinners.

Say what you will about Irène, the woman knows her hats!

Say what you will about Irène, the woman knows her hats!

The movie starts off with a pretty standard deal-with-the-devil plot, not too far from The Monkey’s Paw. Our main character Roland is a painter by trade, but no one is interested in what he’s got to sell. He’s desperate for the love of a woman, Irène, but she wants money and fame, and Roland can’t give it to her. A year after they’ve met (a wonder he’s lasted this long, she is unbearable!), she leaves him sitting in a restaurant by his lonesome. This is the perfect chance for the restaurant’s chef to unload that disembodied left hand he’s been trying to sell for all these years, you know, the one that made him the amazing chef he is today but will damn his soul? Yeah, that one.

I don't know, I probably wouldn't buy a hand in a box... not even for a buck.

I don’t know, I probably wouldn’t buy a hand in a box… not even for a buck.

Being an atheist with no belief in eternal damnation, Roland figures he’s got nothing to lose and everything to gain, and takes up the chef on his seemingly amazing offer. The next day, Roland wakes up with wonderful paintings filling his room and Irène doting on him. Hours after his first successful one-man show, Roland is approached by a strange little man who offers to take back the hand for a very small fee, indeed. Roland comes very close to accepting the man’s offer, but alas the idea of going back to the life of a starving artist is too much to bear. Okay, says the little man, the offer still stands – but my price doubles with every day!

Wouldn't you want to watch a movie like this?! Yes!

Wouldn’t you want to watch a movie like this?! Yes!

And so, despite his fame, Roland descends into madness trying to obtain enough money to buy his freedom back from the devil. Eventually he meets all the other men who’ve held the devil’s hand, all the way back to the monk from whom it was stolen! Can these men in their wisdom help save Roland from damnation and despair?!

How about a movie that looks like this?! So good.

How about a movie that looks like this?! So good.

At first, I must say, I was pretty bored by this movie. It all seemed like it was going to be pretty predictable and unremarkable, but once Roland spirals downward into darkness, things really get interesting! It helps that as the story moves along, Roland becomes a much more sympathetic character than he starts off. It also helps that the movie starts looking really good by the middle and then is just one beautiful shot after another. I’d definitely recommend this; even though it takes a little bit for the movie to pick up, it’s not even that long to begin with (running time 80 minutes!). Good luck finding a copy you can watch!

Seriously gorgeous, right?

Seriously gorgeous, right?

 




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