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La Petite Marchande d'Allumettes - 1928 - 6/10
AKA - The Little Match Girl

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Creative silent short from Jean Renoir of classic Hans Christian Andersen tale.
Young girl sets out during a bitter cold blizzard and attempts to sell matches to bustling pedestrians.
She peers into the window of the toy shop, and the glamorous - and warm - restaurant.
Catherine Hessling makes a good waif, in the best tradition of Mary Pickford.
Fantasy sequences are imaginative, and the props, clearly models, lend a fairy touch.


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L'ivresse du Pouvoir - 2006 - 6/10
AKA - Comedy Of Power

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Isabelle Huppert plays no-nonsense prosecuting attorney, trying to bring down the influential old boy cartel.
She has snagged a big fish and hopes that will lead to bigger game.
Were that such strategies unfold so easily.
Layers and walls shield the real money, plus they know how to counterattack.
Pragmatic, almost cynical, study of political and economic corruption.
Huppert’s home life catches an odd triangle between her, her husband and his nephew.


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David Crosby:  Remember My Name - 2019 - 7/10

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I feared this would be yet another “victory lap” from a dimming star.
Not so.  Crosby delivers a caustic commentary on his past behavior and treatment of females and bandmates.
One telling statement is that none of his previous mates will have anything to do with him.
Drugs played their part, but so too did an inflexible attitude, or as he put it, just being a jerk.
Crosby, refreshingly, never glosses over misdeeds - a sharp contrast to docs curated by family members.
This is everything that Echo In The Canyon (2018) should have been.


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Vultural

Strange Bargain - 1949 - 6/10

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When Sam goes asks his boss for a raise, he is reminded that the firm is struggling, and then fired.
Soon thereafter, the boss makes a proposal.
“I intend to kill myself, but I want you to make it look like murder afterward.  My family will get the insurance, and I’ll pay you $10,000.”
What could go wrong?
Minor crime mystery benefits from good cast and an acceptable premise.
Sam is an innocent soul, though, and you cringe, watching him make mistake after mistake.

Murder, She Wrote:  The Days Dwindle Down (S03E21) - 1987 -  NA

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So almost 40 years later, Strange Bargain gets a reboot on an episode of Murder, She Wrote.
J B Fletcher is asked to solve an old mystery, shown using flashbacks of the 1949 movie.
Flashbacks are edited so that the story is modified.
Any good?  A trio of original actors reprise their roles, and June Havoc and Gloria Stuart are brought in.
This is Murder, She Wrote, however, which generally has a safe predictability.
Once every blue moon, though, the series kicked out a rather dark episode.
This is one of those.


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Vultural

The Toy Box - 1971 - 5/10

Ralph and Donna are heading to one of “uncle’s” perverted parties.
Uncle, an infirm voyeur, likes to watch guests misbehave.  Without clothes.

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The above scene is early, before everyone disrobes and the moaning commences.
There are sequences in sunlit woodlands, cramped cars, an amorous bed, back staircase.
Virtually all dialogue is looped, once or twice the audio vanishes.
You could always switch off the sound and spin your Esquivel records.
There is the breath of a plot, and a weird twist at the end, if you can endure past the rampant nudity and rompings.
The cast is a smorgasbord of softcore luminaries from the 70s, which is why one views this gobbler.
Uschi Digard, Neola Graef, Ann Perry, Marie Arnold, plenty more.


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Mort d'un Pourri - 1977 - 7/10
AKA - Death Of A Corrupt Man

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A politician / bureaucrat / fixer is murdered.
Police inspectors realize his important diary has gone missing.
The book with dirt on legislators, tycoons, aristocrats.
Police, enforcers and envoys quickly swarm around the likely suspects.
Safest thing would be to turn the book in.  The dangerous route is more lucrative.
Nasty French mystery thriller is a sour study of greedy, bribery, murder, and dishonesty.
Alain Delon excellent as friend in over his head.  Klaus Kinski memorable as jaded middleman.


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Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark - 2019 - 6/10

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Horror film unreels like an anthology series.
Halloween night, three young teens break into the locked haunted house.
Others follow, and their presence / activities awaken a dormant curse.
One by one, disappearances play out.
Aimed at younger viewers, who have not viewed 147 Horror flicks, there is much for experienced souls to enjoy.
Good music score, acting is good, period details are fine (though dialogue is too modern).
The house is atmospheric, as are the classic arenas where, one by one, protagonists get cornered.
Most of the kids look too old to be 15 year olds - and - the accepted cutoff for Trick r Treat is 12.

 


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Satan’s Slave - 1976 - 6/10

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Chiller opens with a Satanic offering that finishes poorly.
Another sad sacrifice, then again she’s blonde and in this genre, their days are numbered.
Next scene, another blonde, drinking and flirting … well, she shoulda dyed her hair.
Finally, we get to Catherine.  In bed with her boyfriend (no virgin), yet she’s a brunette!
Already you’re thinking, third times the charm.
From this point on, the film strolls along, not exactly plodding, just in no hurry.
Stale goods from beginning to end, though the production is excellent.
The plot reminds me of an episode of Hammer House Of Horror.
A tortoise episode with slim payoff.
Bonus audio commentary from director and composer is lackluster.


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Rien Ne Va Plus - 1997 - 6/10 
AKA - The Swindle 

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Con-artists and sharpers, Betty and Victor, fleece convention rubes and day trippers.
Small time targets.  Low risk.  Modest payouts.
Then Betty develops a high risk scam on her own, eventually telling Victor part of the details.
From here on, alliances flicker and trust dissolves, leaving viewers to navigate multiple shell games.
Lightweight material, especially for a Chabrol film, although the tone darkens as locations warm


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Vanity Street - 1932 - 6/10

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A starving girl hurls a brick through a drugstore window, then waits to be arrested.
“They’ll feed me in jail, right?  Being in prison is better than starving, yes?”
She gets a break, followed by rather cruel advice, finally a job in a revue.
Amoral Pre-Code film breaks several taboos, flirts with a few others in barely an hour.
Helen Chandler displays her usual brittle, nervous energy.


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Nun Va Goldoon - 1996 - 6/10
AKA - A Moment Of Innocence

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Ex-policeman seeks out a film director, looking for work.
Twenty years previous, the director, then a student, had stabbed the policeman during a protest.
He decides to make a movie of that encounter.
Thing is, the officer has his own memories of the event … and who should play him.
The handsome candidate, of course!
As the narrative is filmed, the policeman realizes how much he misunderstood.
Warm cinema from Iran, except for all the snow which surprised ignorant me.
For those who enjoy stories within stories, search this out.


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Alt-Right:  Age Of Rage - 2018 - 6/10

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Topical documentary shuffles interviews with leaders of Alt-Right and Antifa.
Attempts to be non-judgmental, each side will find something to cheer for their team.
This struggle still strikes me as early days.  My take is times will harken to the Weimar era, and a lot of blood will flow.
Most of the footage was of the Charlottesville riots.  As in Weimar Germany, police stood idly and watched.
For those curious to know how Americans lost their moral compass, this is poor guide.
The history is not yet written.


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Lesson Of Evil - 2012 - 6/10
AKA - Aku No Kyôten  //  悪の教典

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The new English teacher is energetic, inspirational, and students seem to like him.
Then again, the classroom suffers cheating, bullying, attitudes, sexual misconduct.
Just as the teacher’s lounge has petty rivalries and jousting.
The teacher knows how to coax performance, and how to solve problems.
Yet, he does have a tolerance limit.  He also has a dark streak.
Another lopsided Miike release.
The director, revisiting his grisly roots delivers a film that is repetitive and 15 minutes too long.
Unlikely to receive much of a US airing, which it seems patterned after.


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Brand New Testament - 2015 - 7/10
AKA - Le Tout Nouveau Testament

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Behold, God!
Lo!  The Divine One Himself.  After creating the world, the air, the firmament, and all that, He is bored.
So He sits all day in His celestial office, pecking away at His computer, creating laws and certainties that only exist to irritate, foil and flummox his worshipers.
Yes, us.
The story, however, a comedy, is about His daughter, who longs to escape and “do things” like her older brother.

 


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Fig Leaves - 1926 - 6/10

Adam and Eve enjoy the paradise of Eden, complete with zoo animals and dinosaurs.
Newsboys even delivers stone tablets of daily events.
Eve complains, however, she doesn’t have a thing to wear (fig leaves seem identical).
Adam ignores her, so she vents to another neighbor, the serpent.
Flash forward a million years!  Adam Smith is a plumber, and wife Eve complains about her wardrobe.
Silly film benefits from Olive Borden, who was an exotic beauty.

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In real life, she and costar George O’Brien had a torrid affair at this point, which Fox capitalized on.
Borden was also a notorious clothes horse, and this film concluded with a fashion show featuring “nothing-to-wear” Eve.
That event was originally in Technicolor, now lost, but the still below gives an idea.

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Spoorloos - 1988 - 7/10
AKA - The Vanishing

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While refueling at the large, touristy gas station, the girlfriend disappears.
No one sees anything, there are no surveillance cameras, only a grainy snapshot.
Wisely, or maddeningly, the director does not show us, either.
We view numerous “possibilities,” though these are not red-herrings.
We simply see what the boyfriend sees, or later, remembers.
Gripping study of the training and false starts of a blossoming sociopath.
Remade a few years later in compliance with American attitudes and expectations.


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Dawson City:  Frozen Time - 2016 - 7/10

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Documentary manages to mingle the Klondike gold rush, with the history of a boom town, with a celebration of resurrected silent cinema.
In 1976, during a construction dig, 500+ reels of nitrate film were excavated and eventually shipped to curators.
The story relates the rise and demise of boom town, Dawson City, with newsreels and old photos.
For film buffs, there is plenty of name dropping of those who passed through and later became giants.
The most eye-opening was the owner of the brothel, whose descendants peddled different real estate, and rose in prominence.
The rescued reels themselves, as presented, seem in poor to atrocious quality.
I enjoyed the history parts, town and gold fever, but the found film stock, literally the reason Dawson City got back on the cultural map, is meager and of abysmal quality
With the credits, I was going,  “That’s it?”


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A Christmas Carol - 2018 - 7/10

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Superior adaptation of Simon Callow’s acclaimed one-man play.
With minimal sets (this could well be an abandoned, derelict warehouse), and the barest of sound design (occasional muffled voices, horse hooves, clock chimes), the focus is all Callow.
His voice, voices, are magic.  Expressions subtle, grotesque, tragic.
Not schmaltzy, either, but a taut delivery of Dickens’ classic.
If you cannot catch the show at the West End, this is as good as being there.


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The Dead Room - 2018 - 6/10

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“Christmas Ghost Story” that has nothing to do with Yule.
Aging voice actor (Simon Callow) regales younger colleagues with how things were in better days.
He is a traditionalist and has scant sympathy with modern scripts of gore splatterings and exclamations.
Nevertheless, carry on!
The new sound studio is actually an old location, reported to be haunted.
Bah, nonsense!  Until the old ham begins hearing faint traces, catching fleeting images.
Story, written by Mark Gatiss, is perfunctory and not especially original.
BBC should approach another writer next outing.  My suggestion, Reggie Oliver.


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Toys Are Not For Children - 1972 - 6/10

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Jamie is twenty years old, going on eight.
With a young woman’s curves, and the emotional maturity of a child.
Jamie works at a toy store, where she is exceptional.  She really knows her toys.
She is popular with customers.  Especially male customers, postman, delivery men, guys just hanging around.
Innocent Jamie is a hot pussy in heat, c****ip for horny tomcats.
At home, her bedroom is crowded with toys.  Special favorites share her bed.
As mentioned, Jamie really knows her toys.  Intimately.
A lot of viewers trash this film because, I think, they expected exploitation.
This is sordid, unpleasant, the path of a girl who will eventually work on her back for a living, or on her knees.
The print I saw was in marvelous shape, with a so-so audio commentary.


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