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Sunday, March 23, 2008

A feminist voice, maverick filmmaker, or just an egomaniac? Filmmaker Henry Jaglom has been called many things and all of them are explored in Henry-Alex Rubin and Jeremy Workman's brief (only 58 minutes) but entertaining documentary.

Armed with his trademark hat, loose tongue and nonstop-running camera, Jaglom explores the inner psyche of his actors and the audience by filming the "reality" of the moment in his films, no matter how damaging it may become to who he's filming. This style has led to comparisons to Cassavetes or Godard, and to some, a hack filmmaker with no talent.

Using archival footage (mostly shot by Jaglom), on-set visits of Jaglom's film Last Summer In The Hamptons (1995), and clips from his other films like Always, Venice/Venice and Someone to Love, Rubin and Workman shot interviews with people who've worked or admired him including Dennis Hopper, Candice Bergen and John Landis in the mid-90s. The doc originally aired on PBS in 1997.

One of the most interesting parts of the film is Jaglom's relationship with Orson Welles at the end of his life. Welles starred in Somone to Love and the two became close, talking often on set and off. This lead to a prickly moment in their relationship as Welles learned Jaglom taped many of the conversations they had (Jaglom says Welles knew they were taped). But this is just one incident in a career filled with weird motivations and incidents.

As we watch Jaglom from the set of Someone to Love, barking orders to his actors, trying to find the truth of the moment (no script in sight) to use for the film, moments later Jaglom listens back to some of his Welles tapes and comes across him saying, "I don't think the camera ever photographs the whole truth," which is interesting as it seems for most of Jaglom's life he's been searching for a truth through his.

Special feature includes Who Isn't Henry Jaglom?, a 30-minute interview with Jaglom looking back on the doc and his portrayal in it.

Released by First Run Features this week for $24.95.


# posted by Jason Guerrasio @ 3/23/2008 11:18:00 PM Comments (0)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Inspired by true events, director Ti West (The Roost) throws out the typical elements and traps of the horror genre to create what he calls an "experimental horror." Shot with one HD camera, West uses sparse dialogue, long takes and a haunting score to tell the story of three friends who travel from New York City to the woods of Delaware to hunt deer. Similar to films like Deliverance, The Decent or Open Water -- ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances -- the hunters become the hunted when a sniper begins to shoot them down one by one. But instead of focusing on the horrific event, West directs our attention on the inner struggle of the final hunter, Reggie (Reggie Cunningham), who rather than hauling ass out of the woods has a breakdown, which then leads to others getting killed when he searches for help. Reggie finally realizes he must hunt the sniper to get his life back.

Produced by Larry Fessenden, who also has a cameo, West creates a low budget psychologicall horror that if you stay with it has a payoff in the end.

Extras include a Q&A from the LA Film Festival. The main highlight is West explaining why a no budget movie with guns is a bad combination.

Kino releases the DVD tomorrow for $24.95.


# posted by Jason Guerrasio @ 3/15/2008 05:00:00 PM Comments (0)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Few films have had an effect of making people think differently about the world, or at least confirming their worst instincts about it. No Country For Old Men is one of those films. Set against the arid backdrop and sparsely populated tableau of West Texas, Joel and Ethan Coen paint a bleak depiction of human nature in which there is no country for good men, who are helpless to stop the evil men.

Josh Brolin plays Llewelyn Moss, an ex-Vietnam vet who, while hunting antelope, stumbles upon a drug-deal gone wrong (so wrong, that not only have all the pushers been killed in gun-battle but their pit bulls have been executed as well). He’s a lone hunter, whose greed, opportunism and brawn extend well past his brain by taking millions in drug money, which does not belong him. Javier Bardem, in his Academy Award winning role of professional hit man, Anton Chigurh, is the Terminator-like grim reaper who sets out to punish Moss for his stupidity and get the money back. There is one person who represents what is good. That man is Sheriff Ed Bell, played by Tommy Lee Jones. But he is old, near retirement and one step behind everyone else.

The film keeps in line with another of the Coen’s previous great works, Fargo. Brolin’s Llewelyn Moss is a descendent of Jerry Lundegard (played by William H. Macy), who attempts to orchestrate the mock kidnapping of his wife in order to get money from his rich father-in-law, never thinking for once, that something might go wrong. The difference, of course, is that while a measure of justice is served in Fargo, a more pessimistic strain is served in No Country For Old Men. I take it as a sign of the times.

Particularly effective are the notable absences of music and dialogue throughout the film. Underscoring the pessimistic themes of a Western noir, we watch laconic characters make their choices, plan their escapes or plot murderous schemes with survivalist precision, all done with visually storytelling and without many words. The solitary nature of cinematographer Roger Deakins’ composition is likewise spare and consequently more powerful. While some may criticize the ambiguity of the drug deal culprits, the mystery of their identity makes the film more captivating. It’s the chase that counts.

The DVD has three extras, the best of which is ‘The Making of’ and features interviews with the Coens and principal cast and crew members. It’s always fascinating to see how these haunting characters work behind the camera and interact with each other.

No Country for Old Men is a Miramax release and hits streets today for $22.99


# posted by Rupert Chiarella @ 3/10/2008 04:20:00 PM Comments (0)

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