REPO MAN

(movie) “Let’s go do some crimes.” An hour and a half of confusion, anger, antipathy, and awe; captures the anxiety of the 80’s about as well as any film ever has. Otto’s growing up in a world where fucked up people make decisions that effect your future and you can’t do a damn thing about it. Like all great outsider art, it’s both alien and revealing. Really fits side-by-side w/ Blue Velvet – it captures America and then refracts  and splits it, revealing nuances about our culture otherwise invisible because we’re so steeped in it. Budgetary constraints get transformed into social commentary. Harry Dean goes kaiju in this, just swallowing whole streets and belching fire. The best thing Michael Nesmith has ever been involved with. Even better than “I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone,” which is saying something. There’s more entertainment value in 15 min of Repo Man than most movies manage in their entire runtime.

THE ROAD WARRIOR (aka MAD MAX 2)

(movie) Ebert’s ’81 review nails it here. I can’t think of another film structured this way. We’re not talking about a plot moving towards an inevitable conclusion here – the road war of the third act is the point of the movie, w/ first two acts there solely to set the stakes for a metal-on-metal climax (recognizing that Doomsday pays homage to The Road Warrior in its final showdown on the blacktop). The combination of editing, camera placement (low and steady), and Brian May’s unbelievable score create a nearly unbearable intensity. If you can’t buy what Miller is selling, you need to check your goddamn pulse. Still pretty much peerless.

BLACKMAIL IS MY LIFE

(movie) Early Kinji Fukasaku (Battle Royale). Four leads are engaging enough, and first half of the film shows some stylistic nerviness, w/ flashbacks, freeze frames, and flippant voice over. Second half plays it straight, letting the melodrama do the talking over the visuals. Ending shows what happens when you cross Tetsurô Tanba’s mustache.

HORROR OF DRACULA

(movie) Both Cushing and Lee bring a peerless physicality and dynamism to these roles. Running, bolting, leaping, grappling – there’s an intoxicating vitality here. Even the exposition gets jabbed in your ear like a sharp stick. Lee brings his sheer animal ferocity and Cushing matches that with a blinding moral intensity. Lee’s snarl is all junkyard dog, but it’s that stare that stays with me – there’s hatred in those red rimmed eyes. Pure, unquenchable hatred.

FALLEN ANGELS

(movie) Style as substance filmmaking. Wong Kar-wai film embodies the after-midnight movie; can’t imagine how this would play in someone’s front room on a Sunday afternoon. No cinematic flourish is off limits – daring, playful, and smarter than it has any right to be given the story. The camera jitters and prowls, all the while soaking up the aqua-marines and tangerines of the Hong Kong night. Michelle Reis is twitchy and utterly hypnotic.  Violence is slick but nevertheless has some sting. Exhilarating.

SCANNERS

(movie) Cronenberg future-thriller classic that feels slighter now than when I saw it for the first time in the early 80’s. Script is little more than Cronenberg flourishes draped over the thinnest plot imaginable. Still, lots to like here. Love early Cronenberg’s use of space, sterility, and his location choices – this film in particular feels like the product of an alien trying to process what it’s observed in human culture and not quite managing to capture the “poetry of the steak” to quote another Cronenberg character. Even his food courts feel like they’re from some neighboring world that’s just a little colder than ours. Stephen Lack fits into this landscape perfectly – he delivers a performance so removed from humanity it’s nearly uncomfortable to watch.

BLOODSUCKING FREAKS

(movie) aka Sardu: Master of the Screaming Virgins. Has a movie that displays such a overt hatred of women ever been this watchable? A gorestravaganza that’s little more than scene after scene of unconvincing sadism and depravity, all mocked up in high camp. I suppose this flick might be considered unsettling or degenerate, but compared to Cannibal Ferox, which bored me to tears, Bloodsucking Freaks is by far the superior product; I will take bad but entertaining over well-made but boring any day of the week. Highlight: a ballerina kicking a theater critic in the face repeatedly until he dies.