#214 Knife in the Water

Watched: January 05 2019

Director: Roman Polanski

Starring: Leon Niemczyk, Jolanta Umecka, Zygmunt Malanowicz

Year: 1962

Runtime: 1h 34min

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After almost hitting a young man with their car, a couple angrily invite him to hitch a ride with them. They drive down to a lake, and the hitchhiker (Malanowicz) is invited to go sailing with the couple, Andrzej (Niemczyk) and Krystyna (Umecka), an offer he accepts for some reason.

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Clearly, none of these people had ever heard of a serial killer.

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Once out on the water, both men take turns being suddenly angry and/or insulted and aggressive towards each other while Krystyna lounges about, makes food and does a great job hiding anything which could be deemed a personality.

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There is really no trace of personality there until she gets wet… Which might be somewhat symbolic.

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Tension builds as the trio are exposed to harsh weather and alpha male competitions, and it culminates with the loss of the young man’s pocket knife in the water and his subsequent presumed drowning.

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“I just love a good game of hide and seek!”

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Now, the Norwegian translator for the DVD we watched apparently decided only half the lines were worth subtitling, so we may have missed a few things. Like major plot points. But the tension between the characters was clear even if the reason was not always so.

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We’re going to go out on a limb and assume that some of that tension might be because of the half naked woman whose attention the two men vie for.

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The entire movie is set in just two locations (albeit moving ones), a car and a boat, which we really enjoyed. We loved the crocodile, the tense start and the ambiguous ending. We also found the couple strangely adorable when they were in the water, despite their chilly relationship in the rest of the film.

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See? They look like a perfectly harmonious couple once they’ve been out swimming.

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Roman Polanski’s debut feature film is beautifully and interestingly shot, and the filming plays a huge part in building the tension. Especially for those of us who do not speak Polish and who are at the mercy of a translator who’s a really slow typist and who doesn’t have time to go back and fill in the blanks… We’re pretty sure we understood about two thirds of the dialogue though, so we’ll call that a win.

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No fun caption here. Just wanted to show you this cool shot.

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What we learned: It is a bit weird to invite a random hitchhiker to go sailing, right..? Also, don’t introduce a knife in the first act unless you’re going to use it by the third. And don’t introduce a woman in the first act unless you’re going to give her a personality by the third.

Next time: The Exterminating Angel (1962)

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#213 Jules et Jim

Watched: January 11 2019

Director: François Truffaut

Starring: Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner, Henri Serre

Year: 1962

Runtime: 1h 45min

Jules

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Introvert Austrian Jules (Werner) and extrovert Frenchy Jim (Serre) meet as young men in 1912 and a lifelong friendship is born. While rocking their bohemian lifestyle and moving through relationships with various women, they meet free spirited Catherine (Moreau) who they both fall for in their own way.

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We’re sure there’s some symbolism in the fact that Catherine dresses up as a man when they first get to know her… But we’re not ones to speculate.

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Catherine is impulsive and fun, but also intelligent and charming. Jules loves her but is a misogynistic bastard at heart despite his ideas of himself as progressive (as demonstrated by his speech after the Strindberg play they go to see). Still, he convinces her to marry him for some strange reason, although she seems a bit luke warm towards the whole thing. As WWI breaks out, the two men are drafted on opposite sides with Catherine stuck in Austria by herself.

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Shouldn’t be a problem though. A statue doesn’t change just because you leave it alone for a few years.

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After the war, the men rekindle their relationship, and Catherine is once again stuck in the middle with both men wanting to marry her. And they do. But while she has a daughter with Jules, she is unable to conceive with Jim which causes a rift. In addition, the fact that Jim has another girlfriend might also contribute to some tension.

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“So, is this your night or mine?” “I’ve completely lost track. It’s an odd numbered weeknight starting with a T… I think maybe those are yours..?”

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Jules et Jim is a very interesting movie for many reasons. It’s pretty much the epitome of French New Wave and Jeanne Moreau’s great international break out role. It’s also filled with very interesting characters. We cannot quite decide if they are all complex and realistic or just inconsistent and difficult to read. Despite the title, the film is really all about Catherine, but without ever revealing her thoughts and feelings.

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She is as mysterious and inscrutable as the statue the men were initially drawn to

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Because let’s face it: there’s a very strange relationship between Catherine and men. She is always surrounded by them, with no female friends. Nor does she have any friends who aren’t interested in sleeping with her. Yet none of the ones who consider themselves close to her are interested in listening to her. She is ignored whenever she tries to talk about something other than the men or her feelings towards them. Anything else is uninteresting to the men who claim to “love” her.

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“You just get on with your knitting and let us sit here and lust after you in silence.”

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This is no way excuses her final actions, but perhaps it goes some way towards explaining them. She is a nonconformist forced to conform to wife and mother, and an intellectual forced to only talk about men and relationships. It’s enough to make anyone snap.

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Life would have been easier if she was an actual man

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Jules et Jim is a technically interesting movie as well: we loved the voice-over; the “erratic” filming; the cuts and “fast-forward” feeling which felt like snapshots from their lives, and the distance this in many ways created; the costumes; and the complex and  unusual characters. There’s a reason this is considered a classic. And we’re sure there are a thousand ways to interpret the relationship between the characters. This was just our two cents.

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On a lighter note: it made us long for spring, summer and bicycle rides

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What we learned: Relationships are hard. But sometimes it might be a good idea to actually communicate with each other… Also, real friends don’t need to fuck you to stick around.

Next time: Knife in the Water (1962)

#212 Carnival of Souls

Watched: December 19 2018

Director: Herk Harvey

Starring: Candace Hilligoss, Frances Feist, Art Ellison, Sidney Berger, Stan Levitt

Year: 1962

Runtime: 1h 22min

Carnival

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Three friends accept a challenge to a drag race (though not the fun one with RuPaul) and their car ends up in the river. Only Mary Henry (Hilligoss) comes out of the water, but soon after the accident she starts to experience strange things.

Carnival of Souls (1962)Directed by Herk Harvey Shown: Candace Hilligoss
“What is this thing?? How do you even drive a car?!? Who on earth placed me behind a stearing wheel?”

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Newly moved to Salt Lake City, Mary finds herself slightly obsessed with an abandoned pavilion formerly used as a carnival. Even worse, she is haunted by the creepiest neighbour in the state of Utah. Oh, and also by a ghostly visage which pops up in windows, visions and dreams. But the neighbour is almost creepier than the spectre.

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Let us lay some wisdom on you: if your neighbour gives you the willies worse than this guy, it’s time to move. We don’t care how low your rent is.

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While Stalky McCreeperson, real name John (Berger), next door continuously tries to get in her pants, Mary tries to stay sane and perform well at her job as an organist. But she is troubled by her hallucinations (or are they?) and some unusual episodes in which all sounds disappear and people seem unable to see her. What is really going on with our heroine?

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She is tormented by confusion. How can a man simultaneously look so frightening and so amiable?

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Honestly, we went into this not expecting much. It’s part of a DVD box set we own with 50 horror films, and most of them are sub-par to say the least (with some notable exceptions). But we were pleasantly surprised by this atmospheric and unsettling cult classic.

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This single image will haunt our dreams for the rest of our lives. And now yours. You’re welcome. #sharethetrauma

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We loved the intense lighting and the reflections during Mary’s drive to Utah; the truly distressing ghosts; the main character (Mary is actually quite independent and don’t need no man!); the music; the make-up; and the dancing ghouls.

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This isn’t from the film, by the way. We just really wanted to share some pictures from our New Year’s party. ‘Twas a strange affair…

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Sadly, this was Herk Harvey’s only foray into the world of horror, although some of his other credits would suggest otherwise: “Dance, Little Children,” “To Touch a Child” and “Shake Hands with Danger” are all, unfortunately, enlightening and moralizing short films despite their evocative titles, and not the psychotic horror thrills we had envisioned. Our lack of research led to a very disappointing movie night indeed…

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All we’re saying is, when you settle in to watch a film called “Pork: The Meal with a Squeal” directed by this guy, you expect some Hannibal Lecter stuff.

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What we learned: We found 2019’s Halloween make-up. It’s a done deal now. Also, you should check out Herk Harvey’s credits as director. There are some real gems among these titles.

Next time: Jules et Jim (1962)

Bonus: Pit and the Pendulum

Watched: November 9 2018

Director: Roger Corman

Starring: Vincent Price, Barbara Steele, John Kerr, Luana Anders, Antony Carbone

Year: 1961

Runtime: 1h 20min

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Spain, 1546. Mr Barnard (Kerr) comes from England to see where and how his beloved sister Elizabeth (Steele) died. He meets his brother-in-law Nicholas Medina (Price) and his sister Catherine (Anders) and is offered a strange and vague explanation of Elizabeth’s death.

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“Suffocation from too-tight corset” is not among the excuses. Neither is “tripped over own voluminous skirt and broke neck.”

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Family doctor Leon (Carbone) later reveals to the grieving brother that his sister died of fright. Since more details are surely required after such a statement, Medina confesses that his bride had become obsessed with the inquisition era torture chamber in the cellar, and that she perished in an Iron Maiden.

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We’ve always felt that a house is not a home without a fireplace, a lounge area, and an indoor torture chamber. We’re having ours installed next weekend.

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But is this all there is to it? Barnard is still not satisfied, and as we delve deeper into the house’s secrets, we learn that Medina’s father killed his brother and wife in the chamber when his children were young. Young Nicholas witnessed the ordeal and was never the same again.

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Exhibit A: this is now his default resting face

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As Medina devolves into madness, strange things also begin to happen in the castle… So what really happened to Elizabeth? Is she haunting them? Or was she buried prematurely, House of Usher-style?

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And why didn’t anyone bother informing doctor Leon of the dress code for the evening? These questions will haunt us…

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Pit and the Pendulum has everything we love: Gothic castles, secret passageways, hidden torture chambers, ghosts, murder, madness and torture. It is morbid, grotesque and lovely, and we completely adored Vincent Price as the confused, distressed widower. Barbara Steele’s eyes are as haunting as they were in Black Sunday, and she is the perfect Gothic heroine/villain (take your pick here). Personally, we are of course suckers for anything Poe (and Corman. And Price.), so we had no choice but to include this even though it is no longer on the list. It’s fantastic!

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Best watched by squinting from inside an Iron Maiden. Well, we say “best”…

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What we learned: Crazy is hereditary.

Next time: Carnival of Souls (1961)