Tag Archives: Black & White

Review of Blackmail (1929)

12 Jun

Blackmail (1929) is a British thriller/crime/drama film, based on the play of the same name by Charles Benett.

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock (Family Plot (1976), The Ring (1927)).

Written by Alfred Hitchcock (Juno and the Paycock (1930), Champagne (1928)) and Benn W. Levy (Waterloo Bridge (1931), The Old Dark House (1932)).

Starring: Anny Ondra, Charles Paton, Sara Allgood, John Longden, Donald Calthrop, Cyril Ritchard, Harvey Braban and others.

So here’s the first British “true” talkie, made by Alfred Hitchcock. You can feel that the silent film era hasn’t yet passed, but Hitchcock is realising the potential of people actually talking in movies.

It starts off with a long sequence, which is silent. Hey, come people enjoy one of the first talkies, yet no one is talking. Oh, ok, I don’t mind a good silent movie. No, it’s not a silent movie, because there are no intertitle cards. Well, this is confusing. Then like 10 minutes in, there’s suddenly dialogue, what a pleasant surprise.

The movie stars the very charismatic Anny Ondra, her acting is really good, considering it was the time actors had to transition from the very pantomime acting of silent cinema to talkies. Her voice was „dubbed” over by a British woman off-screen, because she had a thick accent. Which is odd, since there’s a clip on YouTube, where Hitchcock is teasing her and it didn’t sound so bad to me.

There’s a really cool long continuous shot, where characters are walking up multiple staircases and the camera follows vertically from the point of view of a wall, which is obviously filmed on a built set, but it doesn’t make it less cool.

The whole thing is that Ondra’s character goes home with some artist she met and when they get to his apartment he attempts to rape her. Who said 20’s was an innocent time? She stabs him with a knife and leaves, as you might imagine, the rest of the movie is Ondra tortured by guilt, fear and blackmail (yes, there’s a reason the movie is called that).

I learned that a brick to the head is a nice old British way of killing a person, but knives are a big ‘no-no’.  There’s a clever scene using the newfound possibilities of sound cinema. A woman keeps talking, but to our heroine only the word „knife” is audible and the rest is just murmur.

You can already see that Hitchcock has a knack for thrillers and there’s even an interesting foot-chase, a bit lacking in action, but very interesting to see and especially in comparison to how he later perfected his use of suspenseful action.  It’s a short and well paced movie, but it does feel like an overlong Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode.

A really peculiar thing is how the murder that the whole movie revolves around is the most innocent crime, yet it all ends kind of ironic and no one involved is innocent.

Overall, it’s a decent little movie, but really, except for the first British talkie title (which is debatable), it has no significant place in cinema history. Hitchcock enthusiast could give it a chance, otherwise – skip it. Not recommended.

“Hey, you know what I just thought?”
“No, what?”
“What if years from now people watching this movie won’t even notice us, the main heroes, and will just look at our director over there.”
“Don’t be silly, no one cares about that fat fuck.”

Review of Natural Born Killers (1994)

16 May

Natural Born Killers (1994) is a thriller/crime/comedy movie, which follows a couple on a killing spree and it’s portrayal in media.

Directed by Oliver Stone (Platoon (1986), Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)).

Written by Oliver Stone (Scarface (1983), Alexander (2004)), David Veloz (Permanent Midnight (1998), Behind Enemy Lines (2001)), Richard Rutowski and story by Quentin Tarantino (True Romance (1993), Reservoir Dogs (1992)).

Starring: Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Robert Downey Jr., O-Lan Jones, Tom Sizemore, Rodney Dangerfield and others.

From the first frames you understand that this won’t be a conventional movie. I thought „Hey, this has a cool Tarantino-esque vibe to it”, but soon I realised that this is too crazy even for Tarantino, who originally wrote the script, but it was re-written so much he is only credited as the author of the story. Not that Tarantino wouldn’t make this movie, he unsuccessfully tried, but this is not the way he would have made it.

It constantly changes the visual styles, basically using every kind of filter, film stock, digital video format and lens Oliver Stone could get his hands on. If you had asked me before if that sounds like something good, I’d say „well, it might look interesting for 15 minutes, but then it would get self-indulgent and tiring”, but the fact is, it doesn’t. It is fascinating. At first I was a bit confused, especially when it first did this thing, where a dialogue is delivered and then repeated in black & white from different angle and slightly different delivery. When you realize what Stone does there, it’s pretty awesome. It must have been so fun for him to just go crazy and try whatever he wants.

The grotesque visuals also make the violence seem both more disturbing and kind of mesmerizing. So if you like Tarantino’s aesthetics of violence, this is somewhere along those lines. The whole thing feels like watching a really good movie during a bad acid trip.

Woody Harrelson is bad ass in this, a great performance. I have been always not sure about Juliette Lewis, I’ve always seen her as sort of annoyingly eccentric, yet undoubtedly talented. This movie was it, she is one of the greatest actresses of… this generation? I’ve never understood what generation is this and what’s the last generation. So, she’s really good and I can’t believe she’s only 21 in this. No one can pull off this combination of repulsive, sexy and batshit insane, like she does here. She and Harrelson is just perfect as this very stylised 90’s version of Bonnie and Clyde.

Robert Downey Jr. is in this as like an Australian TV reporter with a mullet. Yes, there was a time when he didn’t play billionaire playboys, except for Charlie Chaplin in Chaplin. Tarantino’s script was focusing on this character and although I could see it working, I think it is better this way as we actually follow these serial killers.

And the movie actually has a message. Stone’s tendency to hit the viewer over the head with it actually works to this movie’s benefit. A message that in this age of internet is even more current than back then. Now we idolize every fucking new thing and I don’t think it would be all that surprising if there appeared a movement all about some serial killer. Take the TV show Dexter, if news got out that there is in real-life a guy who kills only criminals, people would go crazy over him, he’d be the second coming of Jesus fucking Christ all over the faces of those who suck on the glorious dick of mass media. That’s right. We’re there, people.

Overall, an excellent and bold movie from a time when Oliver Stone still madecool movies and it’s one of those movies that makes 90’s seem a lot cooler than they actually were. Definitely recommended.

Pictured: 1990’s, when red fishnet shirts were cool… no, wait, I can’t say that. Fishnet shirts were never cool. Although, Woody does rock this one.

Review of The 39 Steps (1935)

5 May

The 39 Steps (1935) is a British mystery/thriller/romance film based on the adventure novel The Thirty-nine Steps by John Buchan.

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock (Frenzy (1972), The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)).

Written by Charles Bennett (The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961)).

Starring: Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll, Peggy Ashcroft, Godfrey Tearle, John Laurie Frank Cellier and others.

Here’s an early Hitchcock classic, with the familiar theme of an innocent man on the run.

Our hero is a Canadian man, who displays neither a Canadian accent or exceptional hockey skills, but other than that he is very happy-go-lucky type of guy, quite kind, jokes a lot, is totally unsuspicious and stays calm even after a woman is stabbed during the night in his apartment. This is kind of odd, since the stabbers leave after killing the woman. They probably got out of the house and were like „Oh, shit, we forgot to kill the guy! I swear, we’d forget our heads if they weren’t attached to our necks. Oh well, let’s just wait for him on the street, he’ll walk right out of there after he finds the chick with a knife in her back.”

Of course he knows he has to bail and we get a cool transition from a screaming woman, who finds the girl’s body to a train blowing it’s horn. The guy is now on train and the police gets on that train. He escapes and goes to some crofter’s house and the police find him, sure, it’s interesting that they are able to find him this quickly all the time, but even more amazing is the fact that characters keep reading about the developments of this investigation in the newspapers. Multiple times, even during one day. In 1930’s newspapers knew how to work, no wonder now printed press is dying.

Some negative aspects creep up here and there. There’s some sped-up shots during a foot chase, which look just cheesy. We also have the age-old „saved from a bullet by a book” trick, which was even getting old by the 1930’s. It’s not exactly a smart movie, but it is fast-paced and entertaining one and we still this kind of action romances today pretty often.

Robert Donat is very charismatic as the lead. He acts and looks something like a blend of Clark Gable and Brendan Fraser. Kind of goofy, but at the same time very suave and at times malicious. And he has a nice chemistry with Madeleine Carroll as the romantically reluctant female lead.

The last shot is just perfect. Not that Hitchcock’s movies lack perfect shots. Although some film critics tribute Hitchcock with calculating and polishing every single shot of his movie to perfection and knowing exactly what emotion that will bring out in the viewer. I don’t think I necessarily agree, I think it’s more that he was so talented that his intuition was what told him the exactly right way to film scenes. Of course, with years of experience he also developed masterful technique, but this movie was still made quite early in Hitchcock’s career.

Overall, I wouldn’t count this as one of Hitchcock’s definitive works, but it still is a nice little romantic man-on-the-run flick. However, I don’t recommend this as an introduction to Hitchcock’s work and suggest picking up some of his later, more refined classics.

“Shit, man! Though, it would’ve been more impressive if I hadn’t seen that War-vet missing both legs there by the punch bowl.”

Review of Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922)

27 Mar

Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922) is a Danish/Swedish silent horror/documentary film, that shows how superstition led to witch-hunting.

Directed by Benjamin Christensen (House of Horror (1929), Mockery (1927)).

Written by Benjamin Christensen (The Devil’s Circus (1926), Seven Footprints to Satan (1929)).

Starring: Benjamin Christensen, Clara Pontoppidan, Oscar Stribolt, Astrid Holm, Maren Pedersen and others.

So this early horror classic is actually a weird documentary consisting of various ways of portraying witchcraft myths and truths, while adding up to a creepy piece of silent cinema.

There are some strange illustrations while some facts about the way authorities have dealt with witches are told. This feels like an odd educational film for kids, that kids shouldn’t be watching.

When we actually get to the live-action stuff, they show both the portrayal of people thinking everything is black magic and re-enactments of the myths about witches. The movie has a sort of dark sense of humor as it shows us witchcraft rituals that might ask for a figurative interpretation. Like „all the witches had to kiss devil’s behind” gives us a rather amusing sight of witches lining up behind the devil (played by the director in make-up), who has bent over. I don’t think the filmmakers took these parts too seriously themselves.

Seeing this early example I noticed that often I’ve seen monks portrayed as morbidly obese, gross pigs, eating like whole  cow-legs. Does that mean they are corrupt or just into gluttony? I guess the first option is better since corruption is not a deadly sin. Here the monks are total assholes and one example of a witch-myth actually made sense. Why did this fat monk just rape some girl? Of course! A witch must have slipped him some love potion.

Another great example is a totally absurd way of making sure if a girl is a witch. You tie her up and throw her in the water. If she comes up, it means she is a witch and they kill her, if she does not and drowns, then you should thank God for her innocence. One thing is for sure, they knew a fool-proof plan, when they came up with one. It is an interesting commentary on how people afraid of some things actually create the myths about the existence of such things.

At times I felt like the movie is just throwing examples and concepts at me, but doesn’t do anything with them, they’re just there and don’t lead anywhere. After a while I started wondering what’s the point of all this. I get that people were gullible and stupid, move on!

Some of the imagery is really creepy and for 1920’s the make-up and costumes are pretty decent. Out of the context those scenes are even nightmarishly unsettling. Back then the audiences must have been terrified by this stuff.

Then there’s some presentations of various torture devices, they just show them to you, tell you what they do and almost show you them in action. Sounds boring, but actually was my favourite part, because it is done in the classic horror movie way. They set up how they work and just before you see them deliver the crippling they cut away and you’re left there imagining what did happen.

I wonder why nowadays there are so few mainstream witch movies? I guess we are so PC that they would be instantly considered sexist. Yet having the lead of a vampire/werewolf movie be a blank, selfish and unlikable human girl isn’t a disservice to women.

The score is really great, having some nice classical pieces, like one of my favourites – Beethoven’s „Moonlight Sonata”. On the other hand I’m not sure if they aren’t just randomly thrown on or do they in fact add to the idea of scenes.

Also it concludes with some scenes showing how the alleged „witchcraft” is now recognized as various mental illnesses and they are being treated instead of persecuted.

Overall, it is an interesting piece of cinema history and I would recommend it as such, but it doesn’t really work as conventional movie due to the constant changes of narrative style and it doesn’t work as a documentary, because it spends too much time on just dramatically portraying various myths. Still, recommended for enthusiasts of cinema history, other than that it doesn’t offer much for a modern viewer.

SLUT

Pictured: Probably the illustration for the phrase "what the fuck?" in the Danish dictionary.

Review of Freaks (1932)

17 Feb

Freaks (1932) is a horror/drama film, that actually used real sideshow performers as actors.

Directed by Tod Browning (Dracula (1931), Mark of the Vampire (1935)), best known for directing the horror classic Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi.

Based on Tod Robbins’ short story Spurs.

Starring: Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova, Harry Earles, Daisy  Earles and others.

We open up to a text crawl. Already I feel almost like I’m watching Star Wars and, to be fair, that had it’s fair share of freaks as well. But still it doesn’t prepare you for what you’re about to see.

I’m a person that can watch horror movies where a person’s mouths are stitched to another person’s anus or a guy is raping a recently decapitated girl, but seeing real disfigured people really ”freaks” me out (see what I did there?) so I just don’t get why people ever wanted to go see some freaks at the circus.

I mean a lot of people call horror films perverse and sick, but the thing about them is that they’re fake, so you know the actors are safe, you are safe and there’s little probability of getting yourself into a real life slasher film scenario. However, when I hear someone telling me that they stubbed their toe and the nail came off, well that shit makes me cringe.

And in this film, although the plot is fictional all the disfigured people are real circus performers and that I find disturbing. And I’m torn about the reasons why. Because, while I do feel sorry for them, I also kind of find them disgusting and at the same time don’t want them to be shunned from society. Since I knew this is incredibly not-PC, I’ll stop right there.

So what we get is an incredibly mean-spirited story about a guy with some sort of midget-type disease (this is the medical term for it) and a good-looking completely normal woman who tries to scam him. From this we get the hilariously inappropriate tagline „Can a full-grown woman truly love a midget?”, the answer turns out to be no.

While the movie is very mean, it’s not really demeaning to the „freaks” , yet it also doesn’t present them as the most pleasant people to have around, their little society resembles more of a bizarre cult, than a quiet group of just regular people. I mean sitting around a table and chanting „one of us, one of us, gooble gobble, gooble gobble!” isn’t really a normal thing to do. Also the scene by the end where the freaks are crawling through mud in a storm, attacking people, while a powerful image doesn’t really portray them as nice people.

The acting is decent for an early 30’s „horror” flick.

I’d say this just might be the most disturbing 1930’s movie. Allegedly a woman claimed to have had a miscarriage from seeing this film, which is hilarious. But really I’d say this film should be rated R, because if I saw it as a kid, I’d have nightmares and most 13-year-olds would misinterpret this movie. Although, even I don’t get what this movie is trying to say, you’d think it would say freaks are just people like us, but here it seems like they’re really not.

Overall, I don’t even know. It’s a decent movie, but I don’t know if I’d recommend this to anyone, if you want something along similar themes I’d suggest choosing The Elephant Man.  But it is a peculiar piece of cinema history.

To be fair, all group photos tend to be a bit wacky.

Review of Paranoia (2011)

14 Jan

Paranoia (2011) is a straight-to-DVD thriller/film noir/mystery film, made by people associated with the comedy/movie review site thecinemasnob.com, which is great, I recommend checking it out.

Directed by Ryan Mitchelle, this being his directorial debut, he is the founder of Walkaway Entertainment, an independent movie production company.

Written by Brad Jones (Cheap (2005), The Hooker With A Heart Of Gold (2011)), better known as his character Cinema Snob, parodying snobby film critics.

Starring: Brad Jones, Brian Lewis, Sarah Lewis, Brian Irving, Jillian Zurawski and others.

I don’t think anyone, who’s not a fan of The Cinema Snob even knows about this movie’s existence. Obviously it barely has any budget so, that should really be taken into consideration when judging the film. It is really sad how shitty low-budget movies look nowadays, because for some reason digital video just looks unnatural and does not have the same presence as film. And it would have worked so much better on grainy film stock and set in like the late 80’s/early 90’s. I wish I had watched the writer’s cut, because the movie works better in black & white.

Mostly the music is very good and adds to the atmosphere of the film, which is very dark and suspenseful, but then there’s a club scene where the music is so weirdly generic, it’s a bit jarring. This illustrates how throughout the film I kept being pleasantly surprised by how some things are executed and then suddenly something cheesy would take me out of the film. Like the lighting being messy and illogical.

As much as I’m a fan of Brad Jones and his friends, so I was ready to forgive the shortcomings of the film, it was also hard to separate the actual people from their characters.

Of course, I don’t want to be too harsh towards the acting, because none of them are actual actors, but at times it was really painful. Sarah is a very likable person, but the acting at the start of the movie was so cringeworthy, I was glad she soon disappeared for rest of the film. On the other hand Jerrid Foiles, who I was surprised to see not hamming it up in his little cameo, which was really funny. Brian Lewis is somewhat ok as a police officer. Brad’s wife also does an ok job. Brian Irving is miscast and his acting is so unbearable, that I found myself with a furrowed brow every time he appeared on-screen. Brad Jones, of course, did the best acting in the movie, which sort of makes sense, because he wrote the character and understood him the best.

Covering blood with ketchup? Not a bad idea. People smoke a lot in this movie, which is something you don’t see very much in major studio movies nowadays.

The film was a bit confusing, but I guess the ending explains it. In a way this created some suspense and I was pretty entertained most of the time.

Overall, it’s not a great movie, but also not too bad for a no-budget indie thriller. Recommend mostly for Brad Jones & Co. fans, because others might not be invested enough to see it.

Sadly, this is how I felt at times watching this movie.

Review of The Last Man On Earth (1964)

29 Dec

The Last Man On Earth (1964) is an Italian sci-fi/thriller/horror film, based on Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend. Yes, it was also adapted as The Omega Man (1971), I Am Legend (2007) and I Am Omega (2007).

Directed by the Italian director Ubaldo Ragona (Una vergine per un bastardo (1966), Baldoria nei Caraibi (1961)).

Written by William F. Leicester (The High Chaparral (1967 TV), Bonanza (1959 TV)), some work was done by Matheson himself, but because he wasn’t satisfied with the results, so he was credited as Logan Swanson.

Starring: Vincent Price, Franca Bettoia, Emma Danieli, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart and others.

Richard Matheson’s novel has been brought to the screen more than enough times, and as far as I can tell we can stop expecting a film that would do it justice. All the adaptations work best at the beginning where it follows the heroes while they have (a quote from this film) “Another day to live through. Better get started.”, but start falling apart when they try to do something different.

However, this could be considered the closest adaptation and maybe for that reason it is also my favourite one.

It used to not be uncommon for Italians to make horror movies for American market and this is one of those Italian-produced “cheap” horror flicks in English. And it kind of suffers from this aspect. It isn’t a conventional 60’s horror b-movie, so the opening credits in spooky fonts and over-the-top dramatic score add unnecessary cheesiness to an otherwise pretty subtle movie. It has a certain mood, that is just perfect but then, when it gets interrupted by the inappropriate score I got pretty pissed off. It does improve later on, but mostly because the film becomes more dramatic.

Some subtle music cues and even total silence would be much better suited for the post-apocalyptic feel. At one point Vincent Price puts on an LP and that serves as a lot better soundtrack.

I don’t know what happened there, but there are some montages of Price killing vampires by hammering stakes into their chests, but it shows it from a low angle so you only see him hammering away in what seems like totally random directions.

Vincent Price isn’t bad as Neville, but is miscast and I guess was cast mostly because of his horror-cred. He’s a good actor, but has this vibe about him that is just too elegant and not enough everyman-like. Franca Bettoia is ok, is it just me or does she look a lot like Jenna Elfman?

The “vampires” are portrayed pretty accurately as they are basically a bit more intelligent zombies, I suppose the term just wasn’t that well-known when the book was written.

It’s amusing how Neville’s home video looks like a 50’s TV show, when it is shown being shot with a Super 8 camera.

Overall  a good movie, best I Am Legend adaptation yet and totally recommended.

"I'm here to kill vampires and grow pencil moustaches. And my moustache is fully grown."

Review of The Kid (1921)

9 Dec

The Kid (1921) is a silent comedy/drama film, which is one of the best known movies, made and starring the silent era comedy icon Charles Chaplin.

Directed by Charles Chaplin (A Woman of Paris: A Drama of Fate (1923), The Gold Rush (1925)), who directed most of his movies.

Written by Charles Chaplin (The Circus (1928), City Lights (1931)).

Starring: Charles Chaplin, Jackie Coogan, Edna Purviance, Carl Miller and others.

Charlie Chaplin has been one of the biggest talents film comedy’s ever had and one of the biggest influences on slapstick comedy in general, being rivaled maybe only by Buster Keaton. I loved Chaplin as a kid and I still love him and find him hilarious now. This is his first feature-length film and also the first feature-length that combined comedy and drama and I’d say it is quite succesful in that aspect.

The movie starts by a woman leaving a charity hospital with a newborn child and deciding to leave it in a car. Fortunately for her, I guess, 20’s cars didn’t have lockable doors. Unfortunately, this is the same reason some criminals steal the car with the baby in it. Of course, the criminals dispose of the baby and Chaplin’s character, Tramp, finds him and is forced to take care of it.

In a classic buddy comedy scenario, Tramp is resentful at first and then warms up to the boy as he grows up and makes him a partner in crime.

It is a very entertaining film and the gags are really funny, somehow the feeling of genuineness shines through, even though all the slapstick routines have become cliché by now. Although slapstick is considered to be juvenile now, I enjoyed it a lot and found the choreography amazing. It never feels like it needs any dialogue and they rarely use the intertitle cards.

Jackie Coogan is so much more expressive and funny than any of the 6-year-olds we see in family movies today. Chaplin and him play off of each other perfectly and I really believed their relationship. This isn’t the most physical performance of Chaplin ever, but he’s great anyway.

This is a drama film as much as it is a comedy. It isn’t funny all the time. There’s one scene in the film that is so incredibly heart-breaking, I actually teared up watching it. And if a simple 1920’s silent comedy can do that, there’s something great about it.

I’d say it is a movie everyone should watch, because it is so accessible to everyone. I totally loved it and recommend it immensely. And see Charlie Chaplin’s genius at the start of his feature film career, that fulfilled his potential.

"You will know me as the most charismatic child actor of the next 90 years."

Review of The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari (1920)

15 Nov

The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari (1920) is a German silent horror/fantasy film, which played a big part in the German Expressionist movement.

Directed by Robert Wiene (The Hands Of Orlac (1924), Genuine (1920)).

Written by Hans Janowitz (Der Januskopf (1920), Marizza, Gennant Die Schmuggler Madonna (1922)) and Carl Mayer (The Haunted Castle (1921), The Last Laugh (1924)), who were inspired by Janowitz’s experience, when after leaving a fair he noticed a stranger mysteriously disappearing in the shadows and then hearing about a murdered young woman the next day.

Starring: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Lil Dagover, Friedrich Feher and others.

It is considered a classic and one of the greatest horror films of the silent era, also often noted for possibly introducing twist endings to cinema.

The visual style of the film is stunningly fascinating. It achieves the kind of eerie feeling, that was evoked in me when watching Max Schreck’s performance in Nosferatu. The sets are beautiful paintings of oddly shaped objects, static shadows and distorted perspectives, which add an uneasy and otherworldly feel to it. The frequent fade transitions, unrealistic angularity and lingering iris shots often make you feel like you’re watching a dream-world through a peep-hole. And as it usually is with dreams, you seem close enough to interfere, but you’re just not.

Sadly, I didn’t see the best available copy of the film. I found it hard to tell apart the present time and flashback scenes, which would have been apparent in the tinted version of the film, but was not in the purely Black&White version I saw.

As it often was with silent films, it has a pretty short running time, barely exceeding an hour, so it doesn’t get really draggy and I am grateful when silent films don’t dare my ADD to kick in.

I even learned a new word, maybe I’m an idiot, but “somnambulist” was new to me (still waiting to use it in a sentence). So this is also an educational movie.

The twist ending is cool from one perspective, more like a historical landmark, but from a modern perspective it is a totally unsatisfying cop-out, which was forced by the film’s producers. Although M. Night Shyamalan would love it anyway.

For the 1920’s audiences, unfamiliar by the possibilities of cinema, seeing something this grotesque must have been an unsettling experience.

It does suffer from the kind of overacting, that was quite common in early silent films, although one might argue that it is in a way forgivable in this case, because the film isn’t supposed to be realistic anyway. But Conrad Veidt does a good job as the creepy Cesar, mostly because he is refreshingly emotionless, yet seems to be screaming without making a sound.

It is a special movie for me, because it is the last 1920 movie I’ve seen and it is going to stay that way. That’s right, 90 years is where I draw the line, so there’s only a few weeks left to watch all the 1921 movies I want to see.

It’s a good movie, maybe not aged so well as a horror movie, but still is an amazing view in the weirdest visuals early cinema has to offer. I certainly do recommend it. Maybe the best way for a modern viewer to see it is by turning off the original soundtrack and put on some music of your own choice, preferably something that would go along with the film’s dreamlike mood.

"What do you mean 'I look like an emo'?"

Review of Clerks. (1994)

2 Nov

Clerks. (1994) is a low-budget comedy film, which jump started Kevin Smith’s career as a filmmaker.

Directed by Kevin Smith (Dogma (1999), Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008)), who also appears in the movie as Silent Bob.

Written also by Kevin Smith (Mallrats (1995), Jersey Girl (2004)).

Starring: Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes  and others.

Kevin Smith is basically every filmgeek’s „american dream” sort of story, where a guy makes a movie by scraping together 27,000 dollars and  then earning a couple of millions, which opened him the doors to make whatever he wants. So Kevin Smith really lucked out since he sold a lot of his possessions, maxed out credit cards, spent college funds and other reckless things, which he might have had to regret, but instead he basically bought a career. His commitment is quite admirable. And that’s how I feel about him, I think he’s a cool guy and really passionate for movies and so on, but I don’t consider him a great director. I liked Jay And Silent Bob Strikes Back and Dogma , I thought Zack And Miri Make A Porno  was ok, I thought Jersey Girl and Cop Out were watchable, but there’s never anything I care much about in his directing style, on the other hand I must say I do think he is a great writer.

Ok, now about the movie.  It is shot entirely in Black & White, mostly due to the lighting issues caused by the budgetary restraints, but it sort of adds to its minimalist approach, so that is a plus, even though at times makes it feel like an artsy (which it is not) college student film (which it kind of is). But there’s a lot I can forgive low-budget/amateur films. Like at times I thought the editing was slow, scenes often seem to linger for a second too long.

Brian O’Halloran does an ok job as Dante, but I found Jeff Anderson’s line delivery really unnatural, some of the other actors also do a pretty bad job, making their characters more like caricatures, but it is understandable since most of the cast was just Kevin Smith’s friends and acquaintances. Oh, Mewes and Smith as Jay and Bob are pretty good and this is the first time you’re introduced to these characters.

Although the movie has gained like a cult-following, I don’t think it actually is that great, even Kevin Smith himself admitted that the film has been over-praised. While the writing is what carries this film, the whole thing is actually a bit messy, constantly having these weird scenes that contribute nothing to the story, although they often are quite amusing, they are sadly totally pointless.

In the midst of all these comedies with rehashed plots just to tie together some gags and unfunny jokes, it is nice to see a comedy that is based on just witty dialogue and dark humor, even though the delivery isn’t that great. Also it was made in a time when Star Wars jokes were still funny and people hadn’t experienced the horror of Phantom Menace and George Lucas’ full creative control.

I can’t believe that the movie originally received an NC-17 rating, based on just the crude dialogue.

Anyone who has ever worked in a convenience store or something similar (I have) will find the jokes about the stupid customers and the apathetic clerks quite enjoyable and relatable.

It has its high and low points, pretty enjoyable for what it is, but I wouldn’t call it a great film (although it is a great low-budget first film). But regardless of its flaws I would recommend it, however mostly to filmgeeks, I guess.

"You know what, Jay? I've decided that after this movie I'm gonna get fat."