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HJ (London UK)

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Identification Of a Woman - (Mr Bongo Films) (1982) [DVD]
Identification Of a Woman - (Mr Bongo Films) (1982) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Michelangelo Antonioni
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £10.94

9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Antonioni lost in the 1980s, 18 July 2008
A film director receives mysterious threats to end his affair with a young aristocrat woman. The woman then disappears. The director (& his next girlfriend) try to find the missing woman.
As might be evident from that brief synopsis, "Identification" is a half-hearted replay of the plot of Antonioni's breakthrough film "L'Avventura" - which is ironic as "Identification" turned out to be Antonioni's last proper film (before his debilitating stroke). There was a very long gap between "Identification" and the previous film "The Passenger" - that film was probably his peak & he may have realised it would be difficult to match & so lost heart & enthusiasm as he moved into old age.
With "Identification" Antonioni seems to have all but lost his grip as a director. The film breaks his usual rules and includes pointless voiceovers & flashbacks (& even an animated sci-fi ending!). Typical Antonioni ingredients are here but they border on self-parody (especially the heavy-handed dialogue). The film gained notoriety when released because of its sex scenes but the whole approach is surely that of a tired old man - the passionate love all these young women have for the morose ageing film director character lacks any credibility. Basically, the film prefigures the equally patchy "Beyond the Clouds" (made post-stroke with Wim Wenders).
I suppose the best thing that can be said is that Antonioni had always tried to capture the zeitgeist of each decade & here he makes a valiant attempt to capture the 1980s (rampant capitalism, heroin epidemic etc) complete with classic 80s clothes & haircuts & a synthi-pop soundtrack featuring Ultravox, Japan etc.
The DVD is ok - Mr Bongo have managed not to mess this one up, though the subtitle translations are sometimes laughably inept.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 23, 2011 2:46 AM GMT


Ghost Dance [DVD]
Ghost Dance [DVD]
Dvd ~ Dominique Pinon

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Leonie & Pascale Go Boating in the 1980s, 18 July 2008
This review is from: Ghost Dance [DVD] (DVD)
Ken McMullen was, along with Derek Jarman, Chris Petit, Peter Greenaway et al, part of a little wave of 1980s experimental British directors who briefly found a wider audience. I've often run into other people who, like me, remember Ghost Dance fondly, so it was a pleasant surprise to find out that it's been released on DVD.
In some respects Ghost Dance is a flawed film. British & American attempts to imitate Godard are always awkward & this film falls into that derivative trap with its titled pseudo-analytical sections, its weak aphoristic dialogue, its voice-over commentary largely made up of fragmented quotes from learned books taken out of context and so on. Or, as Leonie Mellinger quips to Pascale Ogier at one point "yes but it sounds better with a French accent"!
However the strengths of Ghost Dance more than compensate. McMullen has an incredible visual sense, not only for individual images but for structuring the film around recurring images. The soundtrack is also brilliant (music by David Cunningham, Jamie Muir & Michael Giles). The images & music generally say everything much more eloquently than the dialogue. The final almost wordless 20 minutes, featuring a performance-art piece by Stuart Brisley (falling about on the waterlogged floor of a warehouse) followed by Mellinger burying photographs of images from the film in the sand to be washed away by the incoming sea, achieves a rare level of haunting cinematic poetry. The film is also blessed with an amazing cast - apart from the two leads, there are great turns from Robbie Coltrane & Dominique Pinon both giving the film some much needed humour & guts.
However the real star is undoubtedly Jacques Derrida, who plays himself but, as he points out, since this a film he is necessarily playing himself as a ghost. Derrida outlines what the film is really about: ghosts as figures generated by processes of memory, mourning and death - and how the rise of technological images & mediation is leading to a proliferation of ghosts. Of course all this means that the film has, nearly thirty years on, itself become a ghostly artifact. Ogier tragically died just after the film was completed. Derrida died recently. The film is filled with ghostly apparitions. More generally the film captures some kind of essence of the long lost early 1980s (the real 1980s not the cartoon one). Ghost Dance immediately takes this viewer back to the 1980s in a way all these recent "Joy Division" type films could never do.
So, a flawed, sometimes irritating film, but a unique & often extraordinary one.
The DVD has some of the best extras I've ever seen - McMullen conducts intelligent interviews with several of those involved with the film & there are pieces on the film by not one but TWO philosophers! - one French & one Columbian.


Night And Fog In Japan [DVD]
Night And Fog In Japan [DVD]
Dvd ~ Nagisa Oshima
Offered by The World Cinema Store
Price: £5.99

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Night and Fog and Marxism, 18 July 2008
This review is from: Night And Fog In Japan [DVD] (DVD)
Oshima has undoubtedly had a long and remarkable career but I have to confess to not really caring for most of his films. The three I've seen that really impressed were Night & Fog, Shinjuku Thief and Ceremony - so it's great Night & Fog is included in this long overdue batch of early Oshima on DVD from the Yume label.
Night & Fog is not wacky Japanese cult-film fun. It is an intense sombre 1960 film about radical politics with an equally radical & complex cinematic form. It prefigures some of the films Godard would make a few years later.
The film is based on true events & Oshima's own experience as a student activist. After the US occupation ended there was a long struggle throughout the 1950s over whether Japan should ratify its close (subservient) relationship with America with a treaty. This struggle culminated in a (failed) anti-treaty mass demonstration at which a young female militant was killed. Oshima made his film directly after the demonstration.
The main setting is the wedding banquet of 2 young ex-student communists. An unwelcome guest turns up - an ultra-leftist on the run. He accuses everybody present of selling out. Various guests respond. Certain key scenes in the life of the student communist faction are replayed from the different perspectives of the participants (a bit like an extreme version of Kurosawa's Rashomon!).
Although the film is sympathetic to radical Marxism, it is paradoxically also a devastating critique of radicalism. Oshima really captures the group psychology of party politics in which rhetoric & demagoguery are used to gain power & manipulate others; he also captures the way political extremism produces a kind of hysteria in which fanatical belief is bound up with tormented doubt & despair. Oshima shows how this hysteria relates to adolescent sexual tensions. He also shows that after radicalism wanes activists drift away into conservatism or nihilism - or an ever more paranoid extremism. The "hero" here - the militant - is actually the one who, by the end of the 1960s, would slide, in Japan, into terrorism.
Overall, this is committed uncompromising and brilliantly achieved fim-making. Although Night & Fog is about young Japanese Marxists from the 1950s, it's probably relevant to student militants down the ages everywhere, of all political types, left & right (including today's Islamicist youths....)
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 31, 2014 1:48 PM GMT


The Wayward Cloud [2004] [DVD]
The Wayward Cloud [2004] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Chem Shiang-Chyi
Offered by DVD Vault UK
Price: £4.49

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Taipai Meltdown, 23 May 2008
A water shortage in the hot Taipai summer & the city's inhabitants are getting frazzled. A woman drifts into an affair with a man who turns out to be filming a porn movie in her block.
Much of this film is typical Tsai Ming Liang - alienated urban characters drifting into virtually silent relationships - and very good it is too, with the director's usual flair for images (I particularly liked the soap bubbles coming out of taps) and amazing editing - he really knows how to let a scene unfold & the cuts often drastically shift the narrative. Unlike some "slow & minimalist" directors Tsai Ming Liang is never boring, his sense of narrative is always complex & engrossing.
However this time things are spiced up in three ways. Firstly much of the film is blackly comic - maybe his other films are funny but I never quite noticed before as much as here. Secondly there are music & dance numbers (!) - a homage to MGM musicals apparently - but very camp & kitsch. Thirdly Tsai has added the porn element. All his films are a bit disturbing in their attention to physical intimacy & bodily functions, so with the porn scenes he really takes it all the way. At first I didn't have a problem with this, but the final section of the film really is jaw-droppingly shocking. Do not - repeat do not - watch this film with anyone easily offended. Perhaps much of the porn element, including the final scene, is supposed to be disturbing but I don't think that is the main point, Tsai is not out to pass moral judgement but to reach some kind of existential truth.
One thing is for sure - Tsai Ming Liang & his incredible troupe of actors are consistently going WAY beyond what any other contemporary film makers are doing.


Chikamatsu Monogatari/ Uwasa no Onna [Masters of Cinema] [DVD]
Chikamatsu Monogatari/ Uwasa no Onna [Masters of Cinema] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Kenji Mizoguchi

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mizoguchi Masters - so far so good, 23 May 2008
Mizoguchi is the favourite director of many a "cineaste" - that his films are being put out on dvd by the avowedly cineaste Masters of Cinema label is a dream come true. So far the series is more than living up to expectations.
The format is brilliant - each release contains one classic and one lesser known related film, rather like a main feature and a supporting feature. This is a great (& affordable) way of quickly releasing a representative cross-section of Mizo films. As well as the 2 discs, each release has wonderful packaging & very substantial booklets with lots of photographs, original poster art, essays & translations of the Japanese literary source materials.
The only (minor) criticism I have is of Tony Rayns' short filmed introductions. While I normally respect Mr Rayns, here he merely recounts second-hand gossip about Mizoguchi & film company politics, virtually dismissing the films themselves as hack-work. I'm all for demystification but this is ridiculous!
What about the films? They are all black & white, postwar (40s & 50s). SANSHO & UGETSU are feudal period films, stunningly shot & overwhelming emotional roller-coaster rides. Both are extremely haunting - literally so in the case of UGETSU with its strange supernatural & ghostly elements. Both films are both regularly listed on "greatest films of all time" lists & probably need no introduction. If you are relatively new to Mizoguchi you should get the SANSHO & UGETSU dvds first. The other main feature CHIKAMATSU MONOGATARI is a bit erratic in tone but still excellent. It's another period film, telling of doomed adulterous lovers on the run who transgress every social code of the time.
I hadn't seen the three "supporting" films before but they turn out to be interesting if uneven. Mizoguchi's most popular films (in the West) are "classical" Japanese period films while his less popular films have modern (C20th) settings. GION BAYASHI and UWASA NO ONNA are both sharp melodramas set in the modern Geisha world of Kyoto and explore the tribulations & sacrifices of the women and the thin line between Geisha and prostitute. UWASA is a particularly striking film with great performances from the actresses & stands comparison with the recently released Naruse films. Arguably these 2 films work better on dvd / small screen whereas SANSHO & UGETSU lose some of their impact away from the cinema. The third supporting film OYU-SAMA is a real melodrama with a storyline that may be of limited appeal. It has some very good scenes & some awkward/dated ones. It is modern but has some evocative "traditional" Japanese scenes and its strange story of a tangled three way obsessional repressed relationship will give Freudians a field day.
Three releases, six films - highly recommended.
Let's start praying that Masters of Cinema get to release epics like Late Chrysanthemums & 49 Ronin and maybe even some of Mizoguchi's incredible 1930s films...
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 23, 2010 11:51 PM GMT


Ugetsu Monogatari / Oyu-Sama [Masters Of Cinema] [1951] [DVD]
Ugetsu Monogatari / Oyu-Sama [Masters Of Cinema] [1951] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Kinuyo Tanaka

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Mizoguchi Masters - so far so good, 23 May 2008
Mizoguchi is the favourite director of many a "cineaste" - that his films are being put out on dvd by the avowedly cineaste Masters of Cinema label is a dream come true. So far the series is more than living up to expectations.
The format is brilliant - each release contains one classic and one lesser known related film, rather like a main feature and a supporting feature. This is a great (& affordable) way of quickly releasing a representative cross-section of Mizo films. As well as the 2 discs, each release has wonderful packaging & very substantial booklets with lots of photographs, original poster art, essays & translations of the Japanese literary source materials.
The only (minor) criticism I have is of Tony Rayns' short filmed introductions. While I normally respect Mr Rayns, here he merely recounts second-hand gossip about Mizoguchi & film company politics, virtually dismissing the films themselves as hack-work. I'm all for demystification but this is ridiculous!
What about the films? They are all black & white, postwar (40s & 50s). SANSHO & UGETSU are feudal period films, stunningly shot & overwhelming emotional roller-coaster rides. Both are extremely haunting - literally so in the case of UGETSU with its strange supernatural & ghostly elements. Both films are both regularly listed on "greatest films of all time" lists & probably need no introduction. The other main feature CHIKAMATSU MONOGATARI is a bit erratic in tone but still excellent. It's another period film, telling of doomed adulterous lovers on the run who transgress every social code of the time.
I hadn't seen the three "supporting" films before but they turn out to be interesting if uneven. Mizoguchi's most popular films (in the West) are "classical" Japanese period films while his less popular films have modern (C20th) settings. GION BAYASHI and UWASA NO ONNA are both sharp melodramas set in the modern Geisha world of Kyoto and explore the tribulations & sacrifices of the women and the thin line between Geisha and prostitute. UWASA is a particularly striking film with great performances from the actresses & stands comparison with the recently released Naruse films. Arguably these 2 films work better on dvd / small screen whereas SANSHO & UGETSU lose some of their impact away from the cinema. The third supporting film OYU-SAMA is a real melodrama with a storyline that may be of limited appeal. It has some very good scenes & some awkward/dated ones. It is modern but has some evocative "traditional" Japanese scenes and its strange story of a tangled three way obsessional repressed relationship will give Freudians a field day.
Three releases, six films - highly recommended.
Let's start praying that Masters of Cinema get to release epics like Late Chrysanthemums & 49 Ronin and maybe even some of Mizoguchi's incredible 1930s films...


Love On The Ground [1984] [English subtitles] [DVD]
Love On The Ground [1984] [English subtitles] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jane Birkin
Offered by A2Z Entertains
Price: £10.99

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Birkin & Chaplin Go Boating, 23 May 2008
A famous playwright invites a trio of actors to stay at his mansion and rehearse a vicious autobiographical play. In the act of rehearsing & performing the play (Rivette's favourite metaphor for creating art / living life) various desires and anxieties emerge amongst the actors & inhabitants of the mansion.
Love On The Ground is one of three virtually unknown Rivette films from the 1980s being put out by Bluebell DVD - films which did not get a cinema release outside France.
Love On The Ground is a very typical Rivette film and will divide viewers just like all his others: you will either find it intriguing, evocative, disturbing & moving or you will find it tedious, irritating, indulgent & banal. This film resembles the better known Celine & Julie but personally I found it preferable - a bit less precious / cute & with less absurd conceits. Also I really liked Jane Birkin & Geraldine Chaplin in the main roles.
There are some scenes & plot contrivances towards the end which didn't work for me but overall this is one of Rivette's better films and definitely recommended to fans of the director. Anyone else should approach with caution.


Grisey - Les Espaces acoustiques
Grisey - Les Espaces acoustiques
Price: £14.05

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars After postmodernism, 14 April 2008
I know the French spectralist composers have been much discussed in classical new music circles for a long time but Grisey's music has only started to "crossover" to a general audience recently & there now seems to be quite a cult growing up around his work. It might be that Grisey represents a more accessible development out of the post war avant garde (Stockhausen, Boulez) but one which avoids falling into the postmodern, minimalist or new age camps which became so dominant in the 1980s & 90s and which now seem so very tired & stale.
As a general or "lay" listener I don't really understand spectralist theory but Grisey's music seems to be based on investigating the properties of sound itself and shaping layers of sound. Basically the result sounds like electronic music but played on conventional instruments. It is therefore, to me, a little reminiscent of early Stockhausen orchestral pieces like Gruppen, Carre and Mixtur and, like Stockhausen, the music is abstract yet highly personal, driven & clearly visionary - but more accessible with, dare I say, a French romantic or impressionist flavour (a touch of Messiaen?).
This double CD set of Grisey's best known work Les espaces acoustiques is a great introduction to the broad scope of his music. The 6 compositions work individually but also form a cycle. The first movement is a 17 minute wandering prelude for solo viola, then a small ensemble of seven string/brass joins in for the second movement in which the thematic development starts to cohere. The next three pieces Partiels, Modulations, Transitoires are concise but major works and sees the ensemble gradually expand into a full orchestra, so there is a sense of development, the music becoming progressively more dramatic. Much of the music consists of shifting stratified drone-like effects sporadically bursting into dynamic volatile flourishes or lapsing into near silence. There is something very odd going on with the sense of time and duration in this music, accentuating the overall dream-like, even hallucinatory, quality


Theorem [1968] [DVD]
Theorem [1968] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Silvana Mangano

42 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Saint Terence, 14 April 2008
This review is from: Theorem [1968] [DVD] (DVD)
A guest arrives at a bourgeois household and, in turn, seduces everyone: father, mother, daughter, son and maid. (Actually he doesn't seduce anyone but responds in a non-judgemental way to other people's desires - as Terence Stamp points out in the accompanying interview).
"Theorem" is one of the true classics of 1960s European art/auteur cinema. I imagine most people interested in this film already know it well. I'd just like to say that this is a fine new DVD edition from the BFI - good sharp print, nice booklet with review from 1968 & a new informative essay and the disc has an entertaining newly filmed interview with Mr Stamp, who worships Fellini & has a grudge against Pasolini almost as big as his grudge against Antonioni, but is perceptive about his character/role. And the fact is that Pasolini enabled Stamp to give his greatest performance.
As the interviews & essays discuss, the basic Marx-meets-Freud "theorem" that the bourgeois patriarchal family is upheld by sexual repression is pure 1968, but the film has proved timeless because of its unique mysterious & poetic quality. Also obvious, in retrospect, is that much of the film is really a representation of Pasolini's anxieties over his own homosexuality - mostly displaced onto poor Silvana Magnano, the housewife! Anyway, this is one 60s classic that actually improves with age - much imitated but never bettered - & well worth getting on this DVD edition.


I Don't Want To Sleep Alone [2006] [DVD]
I Don't Want To Sleep Alone [2006] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Lee Kang-Sheng
Offered by wantitcheaper
Price: £5.56

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Story of a Malaysian Mattress, 14 April 2008
Migrant Indian worker in Kuala Lumpur finds mattress in street & takes it home. He cares for sick homeless Chinese man on the mattress. A young woman cares for her paralysed brother. The homeless Chinese man meets the young woman. Indian man, Chinese man & young woman end up sharing the mattress.
With a plot like that it could really only be a Tsai Ming-Liang film, with his usual inexorable working out of permutations of desire - & it's filmed in his trademark style: long slow slightly surreal scenes, virtually no dialogue. But Tsai's films are not the standard "minimalist" fare because they are actually very plot-driven, which is another way of saying they are not boring, but gradually become very involving, packed with latent tension & marked by unexpected (sometimes jaw-dropping) twists & turns.
This film has parallel plot-lines concerning people giving intensive care to helpless bodies. It is not merely that caring for someone is eroticised in the film, or a metaphor for sex, but the reverse - sex is a symptom of the primary fundamental human desire & need, which is to surrender completely to the care of another person (the director talks about this in the accompanying interview). Although often beautiful & droll, "I Don't Want to Sleep Alone" is occasionally quite disturbing or uncomfortable to watch. No other director has this ability to render physical intimacy & bodily (dys)functions (which could be off-putting to some viewers).
It's great that Axiom are releasing some Tsai films on DVD in the UK where his films have been unavailable. This is a decent edition with a fairly long & interesting filmed interview with the director. Let's hope Axiom also release Vive L'amour & Goodbye Dragon Inn.


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