Bay of Angels (1963)

Directed By: Jacques Demy

Screenplay By: Jacques Demy

Cinematography By: Jean Rabier

Starring: Claude Mann & Jeanne Moreau

Runtime 90 minutes

The second of Demy’s features, Bay of Angels, is a sweaty amusement park ride; only the steadiest of hearts will stay dry. Bay of Angels is sexy fun thrilling, including everything that gambling and romance has to offer.

This movie proves that watching people gamble can be just as exhilarating as the act itself. When big money is on the table one cannot simply look away, one must watch until the(in this case) roulette ball has landed in its home either in celebration or demise for both the characters and viewers.

Jean (Claude Mann) is just the right amount of awkward and calm allowing his luck to spark a relationship with the gambling addict Jackie (Jeanne Moreau). Their relationship reflects all the ups and downs, highs and lows of gambling, and it is done so with style and flair.

Bay of Angels is an experiment in catharsis in winning big money, living the high life and falling in love. This is a classic.

God Bless America

Lola (1961)

Directed By: Jacques Demy

Screenplay By: Jacques Demy

Cinematography By: Raoul Coutard

Starring: Marc Michel & Anouk Aimée

Runtime 90 minutes

Lola is Jacques Demy’s first feature length film and as I continue through his filmography Lola is an impressive start. I had two big takeaways from this film.

The first is that French films have an inherent advantage over America cinema for no other reason than the French language itself. Their language, along with the societal norms that have probably followed the language’s example, allows the French to speak to one another on a level Americans could never truly replicate. They have an ease and an intimacy towards one another. No matter the relations to one another be it friends, acquaintances, even enemies, they speak to each other in a more familiar tone. I believe this to be in the inherent nature of how French is spoken. Even with lovers, Americans could not get at the poetic nature of communication the French enjoy.

The second spectacular nature of this film is due to the film itself, inherent French-ness aside, in the constant duality this film presents. Throughout this film there rest doubles, whether in appearance or in action, plot or conversation, this film is built upon sameness. Lola is all the more impactful because the protagonist Roland lives outside of these dualities. His story is not part of the circle of love that Lola and the young girl Cecile experience, and for that he is destined to leave Paris and find something anew.

Lola is a very good film consisting French poetic resonance, great dialogue, love intrigue, and the search for one’s self. I’m looking forward to the rest of Demy’s catalogue.

God Bless America

La La Land (2016)

Directed By: Damien Chazelle

Screenplay By: Damien Chazelle

Cinematography By: Linus Sandgren

Starring: Emma Stone & Ryan Gosling

I’m already getting into fights with my friends on this one but they are wrong, not entirely, but they are wrong. This is not a good movie. It’s a fine movie, but it isn’t good.

The biggest problem with this film is consistency. This movie does not know what it is. Is it a musical? A dance movie? A jazz film? A nostalgic ode to Los Angeles and movies of the past? I really couldn’t tell you, and trust me, it’s not all of them although it sure tries to be.

The movie starts off with a big opening number and then has two more musical numbers relatively quickly but then it starts repeating. How many times do we have to listen to the same refrain? To me that’s not a musical. Well what about the jazz pieces? There’s a moment when we get a Whiplash inspired sequence but that ends short too and never really comes back. Instead we get four notes on repeat for the rest of the film.

I’m going easy too cause I think this movie was extremely miscast. I love Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as much as the rest of America, but the two of them are not good singers in this movie. Someone has told me that Emma Stone has been in stage musicals and there is a moment when she really belts it, so maybe it comes down to bad songs. Either way, it seems like they’re both trying really hard not to completely suck at singing. I call it as I see it (and hear it), and they both did not sound good or even just even appear to have confidence on the screen when they were singing.

There’s a grit to Whiplash that La La Land does not have. And you might say, “But this is a romancing of a situation, there can’t be grit” well go read Shakespeare, or watch West Side Story. Love stories can pack a punch, they can be dirty and grimy, soul crushing, and when talking about two people supposedly at their lowest points in Los Angeles these two have it pretty good. They needed to feel more, want more, that if they don’t find success they will die!

I will say the production design for this movie is spectacular. Some of the camera work and directing decisions are exactly the creative decisions that Hollywood needs right now. But this movie is inconsistent. The styles change a bunch. The movie doesn’t know exactly what it is. There are really good scenes throughout but they don’t feel like they all belong to the same movie or are even from the same time period. The costumes are way nicer than what two people of their status should be wearing. I never felt I understood where these characters were coming from or who they were because of all the inconsistencies. I knew what they wanted, success, but ultimately you’re watching two of the most successful movie stars in the world and I did’t buy any of it.

I think this was a noble effort by Chazelle and I look forward to him making more movies, but I just refuse to drink the koolaid on this one.

God Bless America

Sex Ed (2014)

Directed By – Isaac Feder

Screenplay By – Bill Kennedy

Cinematography By – Brian Burgoyne

Starring Haley Joel Osment

92 min.

Yeah, so this is an indi film where Haley Joel Osment plays a virgin who gets a job as an after school teacher and decides to teach sex ed. That’s basically it. It’s got its moments of humor and its moments of heart. And yeah, it’s an indi film where Haley Joel Osment plays a virgin who gets a job as an after school teacher and decides to teach sex ed.

God Bless America

Empire of Passion (1978)

Directed By – Nagisa Ôshima

Screenplay By – Nagisa Ôshima

Cinematography By – Yoshio Miyajima

Starring Tatsuya Fuji & Kazuko Yoshiyuki

105 min.

Another powerhouse film by Nagisa Ôshima, Empire of Passion is a tale of adultery and the subsequent murder it leads to.

It is brilliantly acted and directed with Tatsuya Fuji having a captivating screen presence.

Definitely worth watching!

God Bless America

In the Realm of the Senses (1976)

Directed By – Nagisa Ôshima

Screenplay By – Nagisa Ôshima

Cinematography By – Hideo Itô

Starring Tatsuya Fuji & Eiko Matsuda

109 min.

I had no idea what this movie was when I started watching it but DAMN! WHOA! This shit is intense! Not only is it maybe the most beautifully shot soft core I’ve ever seen but it is an amazingly mesmerizing love(?!) story. In the Realm of the Senses will slowly take you deeper and darker into a relationship that’s as twisted and fucked as any relationship known to man. I AM NOT EXAGGERATING! And that is why this movie is phenomenal (which could also tell you a lot about me).

But seriously I wish more people (any people) would see this movie. I think we would all have way more to talk about.

God Bless America

The Cranes are Flying (1957)

Directed By – Mikhail Kalatozov

Screenplay By – Viktor Rozov

Cinematography By – Sergey Urusevskiy

Starring Tatyana Samoylova & Aleksey Batalov

97 min.

A powerful war movie that examines what it means to be faithful to your love during wartime and how war not only separates lovers from being together but provides several obstacles for them just knowing the other is alive.

Another beautiful film that has Kalatozov directing, Rozov writing, and Urusevskiy shooting, and even has Tatyana Samaoylova as the star.

Definitely a film worth watching and knowing about and knowing this entire team of filmmakers who are able to produce some really excellent work together.

God Bless America

Letter Never Sent (1960)

Directed By – Mikhail Kalatozov

Screenplay By – Grigori Koltunov, Valeri Osipov & Viktor Rozov

Cinematography By – Sergey Urusevskiy

Starring Tatyana Samoylova, Evgeniy Urbanskiy, Innokentiy Smoktunovskiy & Vasiliy Livanov

80 min.

A bold film about man versus nature. It’s such a classic theme but Kalatozov is so unique with his decisions and the characters are all so well crafted, this is truly a remarkable film. It had me sweating for the characters as they try to survive a spontaneous forest fire.

Both beautiful and sad and riveting, a very accomplished piece of cinema.

God Bless America

Let the Right One In (2008)

Directed By – Tomas Alfredson

Screenplay By – John Ajvide Lindqvist

Cinematography By – Hoyte Van Hoytema

Starring Kåre Hedebrant & Lina Leandersson

115 min.

Having already seen the American remake and this being my first viewing of the original, all I can really say is that this is an amazing story. I like both versions a lot, with the original Swedish film definitely being more gritty. Just a great story, with great young actors, in a great landscape of a northern tundra. A terrific story and a great film.

Really, an excellent film.

God Bless America

L’Atalante (1934)

Directed By – Jean Vigo

Screenplay By – Jean Guinée, Albert Riéra & Jean Vigo

Cinematography By – Jean-Paul Alphen, Louis Berger & Boris Kaufman

Starring Michel Simon, Dita Parlo & Jean Dasté

89 min.

A nice little old French film. Probably not for everybody. Some parts are more interesting than others, but ultimately both entertaining and heartfelt. About a newly wed couple where the groom is the captain of the cargo ship L’atalanta and his new bride lives on the ship with him. What seems like a perfect opportunity to mix both work with a magical honeymoon/married life on a boat provides for sufficient challenges to the newly weds and for an interesting film.

God Bless America